Ruth Cunningham attended the much anticipated appearance of former UKIP leader Nigel Farage in Trinity College to hear what he had to say about Brexit, political correctness and Theresa May
Nigel Farage, MEP and Chair of the largest British Delegation to the EU Parliament spoke on Friday to members of Trinity College’s ‘College Historical Society’, The Hist. The debate was moderated by Irish Times Political Editor, Pat Leahy.
Farage, who is the former head of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) and prominent Eurosceptic, spoke at the event titled “Anglo-Irish Relations and the future of the EU” followed by a questions and answers session.
The event described on Facebook as an examination of “the structure of negotiations and the possibility of a Hard Brexit” was held in the Graduate Memorial Building in Trinity College’s Front Square.
His appearance in the College follows much outrage from students in direct opposition to Farage’s isolationist and anti-immigration views, with inflammatory comments from students filling the event’s social media pages. Umang Kalra, a member of the Hist, commented on the event: “tell me why you are platforming this man and giving him the time and space and position to ‘address the house’. I don’t care that he isn’t being given an award and that his speech will be ‘moderated’. Free speech is fine but when an individual’s speech has been virulently bigoted in the past, why is it alright to go out of your way to platform him?”
The criticism prompted Hist Auditor Paul Molloy to release a formal statement on Farage’s invitation to explain that the former UKIP leader has “the right as a public representative to address the house having commanded such support from the electorate and contributed to such an extent in the public debate” around Brexit.
When asked about difficulties faced by the planners of the event at which he spoke Farage said, “it’s a form of extreme political correctness – there’s an assertion that certain people are morally better than people that have other points of view. It’s remarkable to see people who are moderate conservatives being described as homophobes, racists, extremists. The left have taken up this position of virtue, they believe that they have the only right answer.”
“I worry that we’re not teaching critical thinking in our schools. We all need to be taught, from the age of 14, that there are two perfectly valid answers to any question and you can make your mind up about what you believe.”
Farage conceded that although he foresaw Brexit being followed through, poor leadership under British Prime Minister Teresa May meant that it is unlikely to be under the terms he had campaigned for.
Describing May as “probably the worst Prime Minister I have seen in my lifetime”, Farage said, “I don’t think she will be there by March 22. The way it works in the Conservative Party is, if 48 backbench MPS, that’s 15 percent of the parliamentary party, put a letter in of no confidence, then there will have to be a leadership contest. I spoke to a Tory MP yesterday who said that certainly more than 40 letters have been submitted. Definitely before the summer, she will be gone.”
On the topic of the rise of the right and current political climate Farage said, “If you put a £1 accumulator on on January 1 2016 on Brexit, Trump, and Leicester City winning the Premier League, you would have won £20 million. We’re living in an age where these predictions are ridiculous and where polling is in some sense useless. People just don’t tell pollsters the truth.”
The next round of Brexit negotiations is set to take place in Brussels on March 22.