'Dumb Irish' comments cause a stir in New Zealand 10 years ago

'Dumb Irish' comments cause a stir in New Zealand

The Irish people have been called a lot of things throughout history, but a veteran former mayor in New Zealand has taken the Irish-bashing a step too far.

Sir Michael Fowler, mayor of Wellington from 1974 to 1983 and still a figure of authority in one of the country’s largest cities, has responded to criticism of a plan to erect a giant ‘Wellywood’ sign in the hills above the city, calling its detractors “dumb and probably Irish”.


City officials have mooted that the sign (see artist's impression above), which is a blatant knock-off of the famous Hollywood sign in Los Angeles, would overlook the international airport in Wellington in the hope that it would promote the city’s burgeoning film industry.

The plan to erect the sign has attracted criticism in many quarters, with many calling it unoriginal and unfunny, while authorities in Hollywood have understandably also spoken ill of the blatant plagiarism of the original and iconic Hollywood sign.

Old man Fowler, however, now 81, took exception to the criticism of the proposal in a letter to the Dominion Post and blasted those in opposition to its erection.

“I’ve believed it to be clever, witty and relevant and its critics dumb, humourless, totally irrelevant and probably Irish,” he wrote.

Naturally enough, Fowler’s letter sparked outrage amongst many, not least the Irish community in Wellington, who have unsuccessfully lobbied for an apology and will stage a peaceful protest march in the city this weekend to let their feelings be known about the matter.

One reader said that Fowler’s was “a pretty racist comment” and another said that it was “about the dumbest thing I’ve ever read”.

Steadfast to the last, Fowler has refused to apologise for his remarks, saying that his comments were a reference to the Irish trait of opposing authority.


Indeed, Fowler may yet have to face the wrath of thousands of Irish rugby supporters when they descend on the Land of the Long White Cloud en masse for the Rugby World Cup in September.