In an article published in The Irish Independent on the 20th of June, Catholic commentator and founder of the Iona Institute, a religious advocacy group, David Quinn claimed that the editors of University College Dublin’s (UCD) University Observer tried to “cancel” him in a letter to UCD Law Society (LawSoc). Tracey disputes the accusation that he tried to “cancel” Quinn but instead says that he wrote the letter to explain why he was declining an invitation to speak at the debate.

Quinn spoke at the debate organised by LawSoc on the topic of Euthanasia on the 1st of October 2019. Former Editor in Chief of The College Tribune, Conor Capplis, spoke against Quinn at the debate, proposing the motion: “This House Would Legalise Euthanasia”.

Speaking to The Irish Independent, Quinn claimed that Gavin Tracey, the then Editor of The University Observer, wrote a private letter to the debate organisers to have him “cancelled”. Quinn said: “One of the student newspapers tried to have me cancelled. […] They wrote to the organisers saying ‘How dare you invite him’ and blah, blah, blah. The society stood their ground but even the fact that they would try is kind of astonishing.” 

Quinn claimed that this was part of ‘cancel culture’. “They live in echo chambers, they don’t want to hear alternative opinions. It’s their way or no way” Quinn said of ‘cancel culture’ supporters.

In his letter to LawSoc, Tracey wrote: “I don’t know whether or not you were struggling to get speakers or are just looking for incendiary reactionary figures to boost attendance, but either way, the fact that LawSoc is giving [Quinn] a platform to speak about something he knows nothing about, nor has any expertise in (aside from leading a Catholic research institute that does not original research) is incredibly dumb.”

The College Tribune spoke to Gavin Tracey about the remarks made by Mr. Quinn. When asked whether he had tried to have Quinn cancelled Tracey said: “No, [cancelled] is a really broad term that can be taken to mean a whole host of things. If he means in terms of us not wanting him to speak there? No.”

Tracey explained that the email he sent to LawSoc was to indicate that he was “not interested in taking part in a debate with [Quinn] in it.” Tracey believes that his email was “blown out of proportion” and that he had never expected what he considered to be an email “from one person to another” to be read out at the debate.

When asked if he still stands by the comments he made in his email to LawSoc, Tracey said he still stands by the comments he made at the time, although he concedes that he could have worded his email better: “I wrote it in a kind of an off-hand way at the time. It was just an email to someone else. Those were my thoughts at the time, I could have worded it better for sure. I suppose I would still stand by that.”

The editorial staff of The University Observer are paid and employed by UCD Students’ Union and enjoy editorial independence from the Union.

Hugh Dooley – Deputy News Editor