Trinity College satire magazine banned over 'offensive' article

Student publishers fined €1,000 over possible offence to Muslims as other publications asked not to mention the incident. John Byrne reports

The entire print run of a Trinity College magazine was withdrawn from publication or destroyed after university authorities objected to one of its articles, and a college-wide embargo on publishing information about the incident is being observed.

Piranha!, the Trinity humour magazine, printed an article last month about the reaction of Western media to the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed. Around 1,500 copies were distributed on Thursday 23 February, but the following day all remaining copies had been withdrawn from circulation by security stafff on the orders of the college authorities. The remaining copies of the magazine were destroyed.

Under the headline, "Stinking sand niggers outraged by Danish slight on their towel-headed religion," the article featured fictitious quotes from President Mary McAleese, and "experts" on the "Arabic lifestyle".

The college authories said that they did not agree "with the content and the offensive language contained in the article."

The editor of the magazine could not be contacted for comment. He was not "on books" when the article in question was published, and is no longer the editor of the magazine.

"Piranha! will not be published until the next academic year. There will be no need for an editor until then," said a spokesman for the college.

The student-run Publications Committee Executive, which is responsible for publishing Piranha! and most other student publications in Trinity College, has been fined €1,000 by the College authorites, which will be donated to charity.

"[Further] potential disciplinary proceedings are ongoing," said the spokesman.

Following meetings with the Senior Dean of the College, Cyril Smyth, and the Junior Dean, the Publications Committee Executive agreed not to publish any further issues of Piranha! this academic year. It also agreed not to carry any details of controversy in any of the other titles it publishes, despite strong protestations from staff at Trinity News, the University's independent student newspaper.

The Publications Committee Executive would not comment on the incident.

"It was felt that bringing attention to Piranha! would not be in the interests of Dublin University [Trinity College] publications," said a spokesperson for the college.

The Senior Dean further asked the University Record, the Student Union-run tabloid newspaper, not to carry any details of the affair.

"The editor of the University Record agreed voluntarily not to publish anything about Piranha! in the best interests of the college," said the spokesperson.

"A limited number of research activities in the arts areas may receive funding from Muslim sources; in the time available, we are unable to provide details," she said. "No Muslim group has contacted the college about this article."

Piranha!, which was founded in the 1970s, has a history a long of controversy in Trinity College. A previous editor of the magazine left the college in the mid-1990s after the magazine was banned by the college authorities.