A Fairfax journalist at the Olympic Games has apologised over an article he wrote about Katie Taylor which many Irish readers found offensive.
Peter Hanlon’s piece, which appeared on both The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age webistes today, appeared with the headline “Punch drunk: Ireland intoxicated as Taylor swings towards boxing gold”.
It began: “Great Britain suffered a rare defeat on Monday, when rowdy support for the game efforts of a Liverpudlian female boxer was drowned out by a gathering of delirious, flag-waving Irish singing Fields Of Athenry. For centuries, Guinness and whiskey have sent the Irish off their heads. Now all it takes is a petite 26-year-old from Wicklow.
The article was later changed to read: “For centuries, Guinness and whiskey have sent some of the Irish (we’re not talking about all of them) off their heads.”
While praising the champion Irish boxer, Hanlon also wrote: “Dark-haired, deep-eyed and engaging, Taylor is not what you’d expect in a fighting Irishwoman, nor is she surrounded by people who’d prefer a punch to a potato.”
In an email to the Irish Echo, Mr Hanlon said he had received a considerable amount of feedback about the article.
“I am deeply sorry,” he wrote.
“I can only apologise and say that I abhor racism. The references in the story’s introduction, and further down to Katie’s closest supporters, were poorly chosen; I wish I had my time over.
“Perhaps we’re all guilty of indulging racial stereotypes at times, and this has been a stern reminder that it’s not good enough. I’ll learn from it. Again, I apologise for any hurt I’ve caused,” he concluded.
The article sparked a furious debate on Facebook with some dismissing the article as “offensive” and others wondering what all the fuss was about.
Karl Hammond wrote: “When it comes to the Olympics , the media in Australia are on the attack . Whether it be New Zealand , Ireland , Great Britain or even borat comments about Kazakhstan , because of Australia’s less than impressive medal tally, media thinks it’s perfectly ok to ridicule other nations.”
Jackie Hanna posted “what a disgrace”.
But Colin McDonnell said people were being over-sensitive.
“I never met such a sensative (sic) bunch of irish people in all my life … I have because I regularly see drunk Irish people living up to our stereotype.”
Peter Ledwidge wote: “I don’t think there was any malice or offence intended by it. Apart from that one sentence the rest of the article reads very well and is quiet complimentary of Katie, her medal chances and the weight of expectation on her.”