#Open journalism No news is bad news

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support The Journal
Dublin: 11°C Sunday 27 September 2020

New Zealand police say sorry: That guy with the sideways kayak was NOT Irish

Police say he had a “foreign accent.” The man himself says that’s not true.

kayak Source: NZ Police

Updated: 4.16 pm Wednesday

POLICE IN NEW Zealand have issued an “unreserved apology” to the Irish community in the country for saying that a man pulled over on Sunday was Irish.

On Tuesday, New Zealand police described an incident where a “visitor from Ireland” was pulled over in Waikato, on the north island, for having his kayak strapped on to his car sideways.

They even connected the incident with a series of recent accidents involving “overseas tourists.”

At this time of year eight out of 10 motorists travelling [in the area] were likely to be visitors from out of the region, but over the weekend overseas tourists presented even more concerns.

The story sparked a flurry of reaction on social media, including a number of derogatory comments about the Irish.

A spokesperson for New Zealand police earlier told TheJournal.ie that the man’s nationality was revealed when he presented his ID to the officer who stopped him, and then confirmed by him verbally.

However, TheJournal.ie last night spoke with the individual who was stopped, who said:

I am not, nor have I ever professed to be, Irish.

The motorist – actually a New Zealander from Auckland – emphasised that he found the anti-Irish comments provoked by the story to be “abhorrent.”

After further enquiries from TheJournal.ie, New Zealand police issued an extraordinary retraction, stating that the officer in question did not, in fact, ask for ID and mistook the motorist’s accent for an Irish one.

In a statement sent to TheJournal.ie, police also issued an apology to the Irish community:

District Road Policing Manager, Inspector Freda Grace, said when an officer stopped the man…to speak to him about the danger his kayak was posing to other road users the man’s accent made her assume he was Irish.
Unfortunately we did not check his identity documents and as a result the driver was issued a warning, ordered to remove the kayak and told to head back into town to get kayak (sic) before continuing his journey.
In this case the officer believed obtaining compliance from the motorist and preventing a crash was a more effective outcome than issuing the driver a fine and she believed she was enhancing foreign relations.
In this case while the man was a visitor to the region he was not Irish and as a result Waikato Police wish to offer an unreserved apology to any persons of Irish descent we may have offended.

nz Source: Google Maps

The individual who was stopped, however, has since questioned this explanation, telling TheJournal.ie he does not speak with an Irish accent, and he was “stumped” by that claim.

Ireland’s Consul General in New Zealand, Rodney Walshe, told TheJournal.ie the embassy has accepted the police apology.

The New Zealand Police have swiftly issued an unreserved apology, which we have communicated throughout the community.
The New Zealand Police and the Irish in New Zealand enjoy a strong and mutually respectful  relationship, built up over many years, and I have no hesitation in accepting this apology as being sincere and genuine, as will the majority of the community.

The motorist at the centre of the debacle also insists that New Zealand police misrepresented other aspects of the incident:

The kayak was never tied onto the car like that. Our roof racks failed in high winds, and we did not drive the car for any more than 15 metres with the boat in that state.

Originally published: 11 am Tuesday

Read: Irish emigrants miss this food the most…. (can you guess?)>

Poll: Do you think Irish abroad should have a vote in elections here?>

About the author:

Dan MacGuill

Read next: