Controversial author Graham Linehan to visit New Zealand in March as part of speaking tour

Controversial comedy writer Graham Linehan is set to visit New Zealand in March as part of a speaking tour presented by the Free Speech Union (FSU).

Best known for The IT Crowd and Father Ted, his views on gender have led to him being accused of transphobia and seen him repeatedly removed from social media platforms.

On social media the FSU said Linehan was coming, but did not reveal the date or venue.

However, Jonathan Ayling, the FSU chief executive, confirmed to Newshub they were "in the final stages of confirming our venues. Linehan will be in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch between March 11 and 21.

"We expect dates and venues will be confirmed next week and will be publicly available after that."

The FSU also confirmed to Newshub it had engaged private security for the venues and said they had an "expectation the foundational right to speak freely doesn't elicit violence from others", adding the "basic right to speak freely is more important than a narrative".

He also confirmed the venues they had approached had voiced no concerns over security for the upcoming shows.

"He'll showcase his latest work, 'Tough Crowd' - a book combining a comedy-writing masterclass with a diary highlighting the challenges of cancellation. You might know Linehan from well-known sitcom hits like Father Ted and The IT Crowd," the post said on their social media said.

"With first-hand experience of cancel culture and no-platforming, Linehan brings a topical, engaging story to New Zealand. We can't wait to share it with you."

While some commenters praised Linehan heading to Aotearoa, others warned the FSU would need extra security for whichever venue he appeared at.

"Wow. Well done, that's brilliant news! One of the great living TV writers and taking a stand for women!" one commented.

Others also said they would prepare tomato juice, seemingly a reference to chaotic scenes from March 2023 when anti-trans activist Posie Parker was doused in juice while trying to speak at Auckland's Albert Park.

Parker, whose real name is Kellie-Jay Keen Minshull, had tried to hold the meeting as part of her Let Women Speak tour but was forced to leave after juice was thrown over her at the time. She was escorted out of the venue by security guards.

Parker subsequently cancelled her Wellington event and departed New Zealand. 

"The end result was that I spent most of my day with the protection of police who genuinely believed I was lucky to be alive. The advice was that I should go home," Parker tweeted at the time.

Just a month later, Parker held a rally in Belfast, at which Linehan was seen in the crowd, according to photos published by the Daily Mail.

Since voicing his comments on gender, Linehan has found himself attacked online and also had shows cancelled. One planned for Edinburgh in August 2023 was cancelled after a series of complaints. The original venue said Linehan's views on trans people did not "align with our overall values".

In 2020, he was permanently suspended from Twitter for breaching rules on "hateful content" over posts and arguments with trans activists online.

However, his account was reinstated after Elon Musk took over the social media platform, changed its name to X and loosened its content moderation policies.