Club night accused of racism for hiring 'dwarf leprechaun' for St Patrick's Day

A student club night has scrapped plans to host a dwarf actor dressed as a leprechaun for a St Patrick’s Day party after a backlash.

Promoter DNA Events sent out an invite on WhatsApp encouraging people to attend the party tonight at Cargo, in Printworks in Manchester.

It read: ‘This Friday we are hosting Manchester’s biggest Paddy’s Day event at Cargo. There’s a huge club dressing, plenty of Irish hats and handouts and we’ve got our own dwarf leprechaun that will be going round the venue taking pictures all night.’

The flyer featured a cartoon of a leprechaun above a model wearing an ‘Irish hat’.

An Irish student who attends the University of Salford, but did not wish to be named, said: ‘Obviously this is highly offensive.

‘I’ve suffered high levels of racism, which doesn’t seem to be held in the same regard as other kinds of racism in the UK. And this stereotypical leprechaun business is just ridiculous.

‘Obviously it’s been much discussed among university students who are Irish, and I know I’ve received several messages from people saying: “Oh my god, have you seen this? It’s horrible.” People saying: “I cannot believe that’s real.”

‘I was shocked but not surprised when I saw it. This kind of casual racism toward Irish people in the community is nothing new, particularly around this time of year.

‘From my experience as an Irish person living in Manchester, I have suffered regular mocking of the accent and culture of where I am from and this sort of attitude has really impacted my experience living in the UK.

‘There appears to be an expectation as an Irish person that we will laugh it off or tolerate treatment that would not be accepted by other ethnic groups which is really concerning in this day and age.’

Labour Party councillor for Man Pat Karney (Lab) added: “I thought we had left this Irish stereotyping behind us years ago. This is truly pathetic and an insult to every Irish person. I hope they withdraw this insulting nonsense.”

Both Printworks and the promoter have since confirmed this element of the party tonight has been removed.

Actor Gregory Doherty, who has appeared in the Harry Potter films and the Sherlock Holmes series, was booked to play the leprechaun and said he was not offended by it.

‘As you can imagine with a name like Doherty I am of Irish descent,’ he said. ‘Both my parents are Irish and I carry an Irish passport. I am incredibly proud to be of Irish heritage.

‘I do not consider dressing up as a mythical creature offensive/or a racial slur against the people of Ireland. Not sure if you’ve ever travelled to Ireland on Saint Patrick’s Day, but the iconography of a leprechaun is as iconic as a shillelagh or a shamrock.

‘I am sure these Irish cultural icons would not be considered “offensive” or a slur against the Irish people. Of course, I cannot speak for all of the Irish living in Manchester, but I suspect you are listening to a vocal minority.

‘The problem with cultural icons like George and the Dragon [or] wearing Viking helmets [or] dressing up in a kilt on feast days and holidays – it’s not really the iconography of the image, it’s the people wearing them.

‘It’s the association with drunk and disorderly behaviour. That is what people are offended by.’

In a statement, DNA Events said: ‘We’re aware that there has been some negative press in regards to one of our DNA events being promoted as part of our Big St Patrick’s Day Weekender activity, specifically in relation to our engagement with a dwarf entertainer as part of our Rumour Friday Special event.

‘DNA has worked with Greg from the Minimen agency for over a decade, alongside hundreds of other entertainers from all backgrounds and disciplines to provide the highest calibre of entertainment and showmanship. We’re proud to work with a wide diversity of performers and we have the utmost respect for Greg and his profession.

‘That being said, we also understand the importance of listening to our customers and making sure that the entertainment we do provide is done with sensitivity towards the issues of race and culture, alongside those of inclusivity and diversity.

‘As such, we have taken the decision to cancel this element of the show while we consult with all of our entertainers, agencies and performers to ensure that we are promoting these important values which form the backbone of our business.’

Jason Shay, centre director at Printworks, added: ‘We were just as shocked as everyone else when we heard about the meet and greet element of this event, which is being delivered by a third party events promoter at one of our tenants.

‘We have worked quickly, alongside our tenant, to ensure that it was pulled immediately. We strongly felt it went against our values of being inclusive and doing things the right way.’

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