Peter Hitchens writes:
Here, as promised, is the fuller version of Tony McNulty's remarks ( he was answering questions after a lengthy speech) to the Index on Censorship gathering on Monday 16th June. The strange reference to the 'outlaw community' is to his Irish background. The academic Conor Gearty had used this phrase earlier.
"It is not my job to pass laws that outlaw radical politics. It is not my job to come up with laws that say 'anyone who says they don't like George Bush, Tony Blair or what's happened or not happened over the last 5-10 years is somehow a violent extremist'. It absolutely isn't.
"I know it's terribly hard to believe but I used to be radical myself. I used to think that politics was about selling newspapers...my excuse was I was very, very young but, you know, like a lot of government I'm an ex-Trot.
"And discovered myself in a very very clumsy way what politics was all about and what I wanted from politics.
"I say - by the by - at a time when it was very very dodgy in some senses to be so coming from the 'outlaw community'. I remember growing up in the 70s, I remember my father coming to me and saying 'Can I just have a look at all those books you've got and I know you're every interested amongst other things in Irish politics but PTA (The Prevention of Terrorism Act) has just been passed, if you've got anything there from or by the IRA you'd better get rid of it'.
"I don't say that's anything like the experiences that some have now but I do understand that the mythology that says that as a consequence of that the entire Irish community in this country were against the terrorism effort or against the PTA doesn't follow at all. This is how far back I go...In the late 60s going to church in Kilburn and seeing young men dressed all in black with berets and sunglasses on 'collecting for the boys' - as it was described at the time - and old ladies going up and spitting at them and throwing the collection bucket over.at the time. I do think there are very thin parallels between all aspects of the Irish position and what prevails now. I know it's difficult, I know it's contested terrain. I am not about outlawing young people from any community having radical views, and disagreeing with my views. It's absolutely the opposite."
I don't think Mr McNulty expected me, of all people, to hear these words. But maybe he genuinely didn't mind. It seems to have passed without any fuss. I personally think that my media colleagues should be more interested in this kind of thing than in their endless dissections of what's wrong with Gordon Brown, and I am disappointed that it has attracted so little attention. Imagine him saying it even seven or eight years ago. And how many others could say the same? No guesses, please.