Editor defends newspaper cartoon branded ‘offensive and provocative’

A Sinn Fein TD is one of a number of public figures who believe the Irish News has overstepped the mark with a cartoon depicting loyalists/unionists in a particularly ugly way.

By Mark Rainey
Friday, 27th May 2022, 7:53 pm
Updated Friday, 27th May 2022, 8:34 pm

Several other nationalists joined many unionists on social media in condemning the Ian Knox drawing – claiming the imagery is “provocative and ill-judged” and unhelpfully “offensive”.

The cartoon depicts four overweight, heavily tattooed skinhead men in boots and sleeveless Northern Ireland flag t-shirts, with the two Harland & Wolff shipyard cranes in the background.

One of the men is in floods of tears with two others trying to console him. One is saying “someone referred to him as a planter,” while the fourth man is angrily throwing down a copy of The Planter & The Gael by John Hewitt and John Montague.

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Robbie Butler MLA. Picture: Jonathan Porter/PressEye

The planter reference relates to the unionist backlash when US Congressman Richard Neal earlier this week referred to “planters” in Ireland.

He later defended his comments, saying he made a historic reference in relation to the Plantation of Ulster in the 17th century.

However, Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie was among those who said they were offended by the congressman’s use of the term planter.

In response to the cartoon being published online yesterday the Sinn Fein TD for Cork South Central, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire, tweeted: “Leaving to one side the debate about the particular phrase used during the week, this kind of imagery and caricature is at best unhelpful & provocative, and you could reasonably say offensive.

“Very ill-judged from the Irish News in my opinion.”

UUP MLA Robbie Butler said: “The continued reduction, revision and caricature of anyone part of or related to the diverse PUL community by sections of the political establishment, media, twitterati should not anger us but rather unveil the bigotry, dislike and at best ignorance of the reality.”

Former senior police officer Jim Gamble said he supported the freedom to publish, but claimed the cartoon itself portrays a “petty bitterness”.

He said: “This is what free speech is all about & I for one wouldn’t complain about the paper expressing a view in this way.

“It is also a graphic reminder of how gleefully myopic one community is when the other is unhappy & it accurately portrays a deep & petty bitterness.”

One of a smaller number of tweets in support of the cartoon was posted by a Sean Napier who said: “Irish #satire at its very best.”

In response to the criticism, Irish News editor Noel Doran said: “Ian Knox is a courageous and gifted cartoonist who for over four decades has been satirising extremists on all sides, including those from the same Ulster-Scots background as himself.

“His contribution of May 27 specifically highlighted the context of the 1970 anthology The Planter and The Gael by John Hewitt and John Montague, and he was fully entitled to make his point.”