'Fighting Irish' article prompts apology


Australasian media agency Fairfax Media have apologised for any offence caused by an article about Irish boxer Katie Taylor’s victory against Britain’s Natasha Jonas yesterday, following a complaint by the Irish Ambassador to Australia that the piece was “inappropriate” and “lapse[d] into lazy stereotyping” about Irish people.

The article, originally headlined “Punch Drunk: Ireland intoxicated as Taylor swings towards boxing gold”, was published on The Age, Sydney Morning Herald and the Brisbane Times websites this morning.

“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 opening paragraph read.

“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,” it continued.

The article was amended and the headline changed after Fairfax Media received a letter of complaint from Noel White, the Irish Ambassador to Australia and New Zealand.

Mr White said the article was “a timely reflection of the pride that Irish people have taken for some time in [Taylor’s] domination of the boxing ring”, but was “disappointing” for its “lapse into lazy stereotyping”.

“References to intoxication and to named drinks are inappropriate and beneath the standard that one expects of Fairfax Media,” he said, adding that reporting on Taylor’s performance should be “free of the kind of commentary which causes unnecessary and unjustifiable upset”.

The letter was reproduced in full below the amended version of the article, along with an apology from Fairfax Media for any offence caused.

Fairfax journalist Peter Hanlon who wrote the piece told the Sydney-based Irish Echo newspaper that he had received a considerable amount of feedback about it, and was “deeply sorry” for “indulging racial stereotypes”.

“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,” he said.

Fairfax Media were not the only media outlet to invoke Irish stereotypes in their coverage of Taylor's victory against Jonas. Another article published in USA Today this morning has also sparked criticism.

“Back home on the emerald-green isle, pints of Guinness flowed freely, perhaps enough to replenish the Irish Sea. The "punters'' inside betting parlors wagered pounds as if they were bits of candy,” wrote the lead sports columnist for USA Today Jon Saraceno.

“It is not hyperbole to suggest that, when Taylor entered the ring, the weight of a prideful, scuffling nation rested on her muscular shoulders.”

Spokesperson for the Irish Sports Council Paul McDermott, who was in the ExCel Arena for yesterday’s match, said there were a lot of women, families and older people in the crowd to support Taylor, and as it was early in the afternoon there were very few people drinking alcohol.

“The atmosphere was electric, the best you can get at an Irish sporting event,” he said. “There was nothing else to note about it.”