A planned St. Patrick’s Day celebration in Manchester was met with opposition after local students expressed frustration over stereotyping.
An announcement sent out via WhatsApp by DNA Events promised “Manchester’s BIGGEST Paddy’s Day event at Cargo,” a local nightclub, specifically referencing having “plenty of Irish hats” on hand, as well as “our own dwarf leprechaun that will be going round the venue taking pictures all night.”
Manchester Evening News shared the story, alongside an interview with an anonymous Irish student at Salford University who was upset about the event.
“Obviously this is highly offensive,” they said. “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.”
They claimed other Irish students at the university were equally upset and shocked at the inclusion of a “leprechaun” at the celebration, and blasted “an expectation as an Irish person that we will laugh it off or tolerate treatment that would not be accepted by other ethnic groups.”
Councillor Pat Karney agreed, telling the publication, “I thought we had left this Irish stereotyping behind us years ago. This is truly pathetic and an insult to every Irish person.”
By the time the story began circulating online, people seemed to have gotten confused over what the actual complaint was, with folks on Twitter believing locals had been offended over the decision to cast a perform with dwarfism as the “leprechaun.”
And after Cargo ultimately nixed that part of the event as a response, DNA Events issued a statement referencing the negative press “specifically in relation to our engagement with a dwarf entertainer.”
Gregor Doherty, the actor who had been cast to play the leprechaun at the party, seemed aware of the actual backlash occurring, but told MEN that he disagreed with the conclusion the students had come to and suggested the outlet had listened to a “vocal minority.”
“I am incredibly proud to be of Irish heritage,” he said. “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.”
Elaborating further, Doherty suggested “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 behavior. That is what people are offended by.”
It’s unclear whether Doherty found another party gig to work for the holiday, but DNA Events said that they have worked with him for over a decade “alongside hundreds of other entertainers from all backgrounds and disciplines,” and that they are “proud to work with a wide diversity of performers.”