Just as it is the Jews who are the most likely to tell Jewish jokes it is the Irish who are most likely to tell Irish jokes (although they often substitute Kerryman for Irishman, except, of course, in County Kerry….) Whether such jokes are offensive or not rather depends on the individual joke.
During a break in proceedings at meeting Cllr Ken Bamber, a Conservative councillor on Medway, told the following joke:
"A man walked into a Dublin bar and saw a friend sitting with an empty glass. 'Paddy can I buy you another', he asked, to which Paddy replied – 'now what would I be wanting with another empty glass?'"
He was overheard by an Irish-born union official, Brian Kelly, employed full time by the Council as an official with Unison. Mr Kelly complained the joke was racist. Cllr Bamber apologised for any offence. But that wasn't enough. Mr Kelly made an official complaint to the Standards Board and the matter has now been settled privately with Kelly paid compensation. It is understood to amount to thousands of pounds – some from the Council and some from Cllr Bamber.
The joke strikes me as a pretty mainstream representative of the genre. Of course tone and context are important. I suppose it is good manners with jokes to be sensitive as to who you tell them to in case they might cause upset. Certainly Cllr Bamber's comic timing by taking the opportunity of an intermission in a race discrimination case was unfortunate. But I don't think telling this joke would constitute evidence to a reasonable person that Cllr Bamber genuinely believes the Irish are stupid or that he was seeking to stir up ill feeling against them. I wonder how much money Mr Kelly got? Criminal injury compensation claims typically offer £1,500 for a broken nose, £3,500 for a broken leg. How does hearing a joke he found offensive measure up on that scale?
The Taxpayers Alliance have complained that the Council Taxpayer shouldn't have to pay out money. Neither should Cllr Bamber. If he has behaved badly then the residents of Peninsula Ward can deliver their verdict through the ballot box. That is proper mechanism for resolving such matters.
By way of balance, here is an Irish joke that can still be safely told:
Seamus applied for a job as a labourer at a local building site. The foreman wasn't too sure about Seamus's experience, so he decided to ask him a simple test question: ‘What is the difference between a girder and joist?’
‘That's easy,’ replied Seamus, ‘Goethe wrote Faust and Joyce wrote Ulysses.’