On this day: A Nazi comparison

January 28 2005: A gaffe from the Irish President

By Jennifer Lipman, January 28, 2011

Mary McAleese made headlines round the world – for all the wrong reasons – with comments made just before she attended a Holocaust Memorial day ceremony.

The Irish president, in office since 1997, likened Protestant treatment of Catholics in Northern Ireland to the actions of the Nazis in 1930s and 1940s Germany.

She said: "They gave to their children an irrational hatred of Jews in the same way that people in Northern Ireland transmitted to their children an irrational hatred, for example, of Catholics.

“In the same way that people give to their children an outrageous and irrational hatred of those who are of different colour and all of those things.”

The comparison prompted furious reactions from Unionist groups and from members of the Irish Jewish community.
Ms McAleese later apologised and said she been devastated by the negative reaction.

What the JC: The apology was welcomed by the Irish Chief Rabbi, Yaacov Perlman, who believed that she had not properly thought through her comments. However, Unionist Northern Ireland Assembly member Derek Hussey described the President’s gaffe as “unforgivable.” He told the JC that “no apology could match the enormity of the hurt she has caused to the Protestant population.

See more from the JC archives here.

Last updated: 9:04am, January 28 2011