Award-winning Irish comedian Tommy Tiernan has apologised for a foul-mouthed rant about the Holocaust during the Irish equivalent of Glastonbury.
Tiernan was taking part in a question-and-answer session before an audience of over 400 at the Electric Picnic music and arts festival in County Laios. Asked if he had ever been accused of antisemitism, he responded: “F------ six million? I would have got 10 or 12 million out of that... F------ two at a time, they would have gone. Hold hands, get in there. Leave us your teeth and your glasses.”
His festival appearance was on September 5, but Tiernan did not post an apology on his website until Tuesday, two days after criticism of his comments appeared in Ireland’s Sunday Tribune newspaper. The 40-year-old former winner of the Edinburgh Festival’s Perrier award for comedy claimed “one of the duties of the comic performer is to be reckless and irresponsible and that the things that they say should never be taken out of context”.
Archbishop of Dublin Dr Diarmuid Martin condemned Tiernan’s comments as “offensive to the Jewish community and to all who feel revulsion concerning the Holocaust.
“Comedy does not bring with it unlimited licence. Comedy can easily become the forerunner of intolerance. Indeed comedy can be subtly dressed up to be cruel and to show disregard. Trivialisation of the Holocaust can be as hurtful as denial.”
Irish-Jewish MP Alan Shatter said the comedian had been “grossly offensive. Good comedy is on the edge — he fell off the cliff. He says his remarks were taken out of context. But in what context would they have been appropriate?”
Tom Carew of the Ireland-Israel Friendship League asked: “Would he think it acceptable to translate this to an Irish context and talk about the numbers who died in the troubles of the last 30 years? I would doubt it very much.”
Ruairi Quinn, chair of the Holocaust Educational Trust Ireland, was “equally concerned about the report of the audience’s reaction, which appears to have endorsed and enjoyed his comments”.