Police investigate Burchill's 'incitement to racial hatred'

 The Crown Prosecution Service is considering a claim that Guardian columnist Julie Burchill incited racial hatred in a piece about Irish celebrations of St Patrick’s Day.

John Twomey, who works at the London Irish Centre, complained to police at Kilburn Station that Burchill’s column, published in the Weekend section of The Guardian on 29 June, contravened Section 70 of the 1976 Race Relations Act.

"We are investigating an allegation of incitement to racial hatred and have submitted a file to the CPS for consideration. We now await their advice," said a spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police.

A copy of the complaint has also been forwarded to Commander Cressida Dick, head of the diversity directorate at Scotland Yard.

The row comes in the same week that BBC director general Greg Dyke was interviewed by police over comments about Welsh people made by Weakest Link presenter Anne Robinson on a chat show last year.

In the Guardian article, Burchill refers to St Patrick’s Day as celebrating "almost compulsory child molestation by the national church, total discrimination against women who wish to be priests, aiding and abetting Herr Hitler in his hour of need, and outlawing abortion and divorce".

She later refers to the Irish flag as "the Hitler-licking, altarboy-molesting, abortion-banning Irish tricolour." Jerry Kivlehan of the Federation of Irish Societies said: "As far as we are concerned the article is racist and anti-Irish."

Donal Mooney, editor of the Irish World newspaper, believes that the article hit a raw nerve with the Irish.

"I doubt whether Burchill would have made these type of comments about black or Asian people and if she had I do not think The Guardian would have run them," he said.

"I am surprised at The Guardian, which has over the years been fairer to Irish people than many papers. If it had been The Sun it would have been less surprising," said Mooney.

Of Twomey’s complaint, Burchill told Press Gazette: "This man, in my opinion, is quite detestably and unfairly using the Race Relations Act to attempt to stifle all criticism of the Catholic Church and its quite shockingly bad record on women’s rights, supporting fascism and child abuse.

"I shall be fighting this case every step of the way and have already been promised support by a number of organisations representing children molested by Catholic priests."

In a statement, The Guardian said: "As with all readers’ complaints, we would advise the complainant to contact our readers’ editor who acts, with a great deal of success, as an internal ombudsman. We understand a complaint was made to the police regarding this particular article, but as yet, they have not contacted us. We will of course, respond accordingly if they do."

The CPS believes it will have made a decision on the case by next week.

By Paul Donovan

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