The “hysteria” around the rise of cancel culture is an overreaction, according to comedian and writer Séamas O’Reilly.
He was speaking after comedian and talk show host Tommy Tiernan lost a sponsorship deal over a controversial joke he made at one of his recent live shows.
That came after RTÉ presenter and activist Emer O'Neill highlighted the joke on social media, after walking out of Tiernan’s vicar Street show.
Ms O’Neill last week told Newstalk that, after talking to the comedian over the phone in the days since, she “absolutely” accepts his apology – but would like him to make a statement apologising publicly.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, comedian Séamas O’Reilly said it’s true that comedians sometimes have to check themselves – but insisted that is a “good thing”.
“It’s also just a normal thing that happens in every other aspect of society and I think the sort of hysteria that is whipped up about how cancel culture or wokeness or whatever is tampering down on people’s freedoms is an overreaction,” he said.
“Because it’s been happening ever since people got on stage and said things in front of people.
“Some people haven’t liked it and have said so. It has been blown up, I think, into maybe something that it isn’t.”
Speaking to the show last week, Ms O’Neill said she felt like her “Irishness was taken away” by the joke.
“It was one of those moments where I was thinking, ‘Oh let the ground swallow me up here,’” she said.
“I was the only person of colour in the whole room, so, in that moment, it was like my Irishness was taken away from me. I was now just a black African with my afro.
“There was a lot of people staring at me so it was really uncomfortable in a load of different ways.”
She explained that, while she accepted his apology, she wanted him to apologise publicly.
“I appreciate the apology to me but at the end of the day, it affected more than just me, it affected my entire community because the commentary changed from just sheer abuse against me to something else.
She said the abuse she received on social media after highlighting the joke was “absolutely horrendous”.
“Honestly, the stuff that was said was just so vile,” she said.
“It proved my point of the fact that there is so much racism ingrained in our society and people, honestly, have no idea the extent of it.
You can listen back to Newstalk Breakfast’s interview with Séamas O’Reilly here:
And the full interview with Emer O’Neill here: