Published On October 6, 2009 | By Joe Gordon | Conventions and events

A bizarre situation has manifested itself this week: Pádraig Ó Méalóid, regular and valued contributor to this blog and someone who’s well known by fans, readers, writers and artists in the SF&F and comics communities for supporting and promoting good books, has been told by the organisers of this year’s Octocon convention that he is barred from the event. Its a very odd situation – an individual being barred from a convention in the UK or Ireland is something we don’t hear about usually; to say its an infrequent occurrence would be an understatement. For it to happen to a person who is so well known on the scene (and a former convention organiser himself) it seems even odder. And making it more puzzling is the fact the organisers have not explained exactly what their reasoning is and stated they will not engage in discussing the matter. From the letter:

Due to your behaviour at the convention some time ago and your online behaviour earlier this year we have come to the unfortunate decision to ban you from this convention. We believe that your attitude towards us has been far to aggressive both online and in the past at the convention.

This matter is not open for discussion and we will not enter into any online discussion regarding this nor will we discuss this with any other persons. This decision is final.

Presumably the organisers feel they had sufficient grounds for such unprecedented action but its perplexing as to why they don’t make them clear and why they make a point of refusing to discuss the matter. From reading between the lines it seems they find Padraig something of a handful, don’t like his criticism and clearly are somewhat intimidated by him. I’ve known Pádraig for many years and I’m trying my best here to be impartial, which obviously isn’t easy given he’s not only a contributor here but a good friend of mine. I know he can be passionate and quite forthright in giving his opinions, but we’re all entitled to hold and express opinions and to discuss them surely? Perhaps Padraig has done things they have seen as wrongs, but not to state them leaves everyone none the wiser and opinion left to probably stream only one way.

However, that said, dealing strictly with the manner they have handled this is another matter. Given the amount of people – fans and writers and artists – who know and respect Pádraig it also seems like a very badly-conceived strategy on the behalf of the organisers; surely they must have anticipated that this news would travel around the SF and comics grapevine (as indeed it has, very quickly) and set people talking. It doesn’t seem unreasonable that someone in that situation would discuss it and ask why it was happening and it shows poor judgement on the organiser’s behalf that they did not consider this and the possible negative publicity it might cause for Octocon – surely this could have been sorted out in an adult discussion, quietly and privately instead of taking this course which was, given the connected nature of fandom, bound to generate ripples.

Regardless of the rights and wrongs of their reasons for the banning (which we can’t really comment on since they haven’t been made clear) the manner in which this has been carried out does not appear to have been thought out well and may damage the con’s reputation, which is sad, especially since cons rely on a number of folks who give up their free time to organise events for others to enjoy. It all seems badly handled and the lack of explanation or discussion is bound to rankle with many as simply an unfair way of dealing with matters. That said we hope those who do attend have a good time and this matter doesn’t sour their enjoyment as it would have mine were I attending.

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About The Author

Joe Gordon

Joe Gordon is’s chief blogger, which he set up in 2005. Previously, he was professional bookseller for over 12 years as well as a lifelong reader and reviewer, especially of comics and science fiction works.

One Response to Fanstorm

  1. Joe says:

    Update: there’s been a jointly agreed statement concerning this matter, now copied below:

    “Joint release from Octocon and Pádraig Ó Mealoid

    To whom it may concern:

    Following some mediation and frank communication Octocon and Pádraig
    have resolved their issues thus:
    Nichola Hannigan, Co- Chair of Octocon, recognised that the banning of
    Pádraig may not have been the best way to deal with the situation they
    The committee regrets that better wording was not used in the
    communication of Pádraig’s ban and realises that the closing of
    communication lines was an error.

    Pádraig recognised that online and other criticism should be tempered
    and that his enthusiasm for SF activities may be perceived as
    aggressive. He is sorry that he upset or hurt anyone, and regrets that
    he did not communicate his criticisms more appropriately.

    Both parties regret that previous private communication opportunities
    were missed.

    Given this understanding between parties, Octocon have rescinded the
    Ban on Padraig.

    The Octocon committee will continue to welcome criticism in a measured
    manner and try to deal with it as best they can. They make it their
    duty to continue to deal promptly with queries which are submitted in
    the normal way.

    The committee are considering setting up an online public forum, which
    may be a better way for people to raise and discuss queries.

    Pádraig understands all con committees are free to run their own convention.
    Octocon understand that con members may have expectations.

    On behalf of Octocon, Nichola has apologised to Pádraig. Pádraig
    unreservedly accepted this and has apologised to the committee for his
    part in these events.
    Both parties wish to draw a line under this now. No further discussion
    online or in person will be entered into in this matter by either
    party, as both parties want to move on and put this whole matter
    behind them.

    Both parties request that everyone else who was affected by or had
    interest in this dispute also move on and look forward to positive
    future events.

    Padraig and The Octocon committee would like to thank James Bacon for
    his timely intervention and are grateful for his mediation in this


    Nichola Hannigan and the Octocon Committee

    Pádraig Ó Méalóid”