The right to take offence

What do you call a Northsider in a suit? The defendant. If you come from the Northside aren’t you just a little bit annoyed? Everyone else thinks it’s hilarious.

The burning (literally) question of the moment is whether there should be limits on free speech or whether you can insult anyone you like.

(A man spoke frantically into the phone, “My wife is pregnant and her contractions are only two minutes apart!” “Is this her first child?” the doctor asked. “No!” the man shouted, “This is her husband!”)

The fact is that no matter what branch of humanity you belong to you are capable of being insulted.

(Q: Why should blondes not be given coffee breaks? A: It takes too long to retrain them.)

The problem arises when there is an absence of tact. The insult occurs when the wit content of the humour doesn’t match up to the insult being carried.

(Q: What did the waiter ask the group of Jewish mothers? A: ‘Is ANYTHING all right?’)

I recall a couple of English lads in a factory in London bringing me an ‘Irish electric razor’. It consisted of a Bic razor shoved into the hole of a three pin plug. We fell about. The lads were friends. It might have been different in other circumstances.

(Mother Superior calls all the nuns together and says to them: “I must tell you all something. We have a case of gonorrhea in the convent.” “Thank God,” says an elderly nun. “I’m so tired of Chardonnay.” )

In this country it is not the law that determines what gets published. The offence barrier is set by a combination of societal norms and commercial realities. You won’t see page three girls in this paper because we are a general family paper. Why would we want to alienate our readers?

(Q: How does a Southside girl change a lightbulb? A: She holds it in the air, and the world revolves around her.)

When you are in insult territory you must weight up the likely effect on the potential insultee. In the case of our Danish colleagues, they obviously hadn’t a clue as to how muslims might react to having Mohammed caricatured. It’s hard to say how crass this was because I don’t know the paper’s circulation and readership. My feeling is that these should not have been published.

 (Q. What’s the difference between a Northerner and a jet engine? A. A jet engine eventually stops whining.)

Nevertheless, much of the Islamic reaction has been absolutely disgraceful. Blaming the entire Danish people is sheer racism. Denmark has one of the most progressive and admirable societies in the world. There’s not an Islamic country on the planet that could compare with Denmark’s humanitarian values. 

(Cavanman: Missus, get your coat” .”Great, are we goin’ out?” “No. I’m going for a pint and I’m turnin’ the heat off!”)

Well I find the attack on Denmark and all things Danish offensive. You know Dublin was a Danish-speaking city for two centuries. We shouldn’t be reprinting the cartoons but we should be raising the Danish flag in solidarity.

Everyone can be offended – it depends on how you take it.