Sunday 21 January 2018

BBC criticised for using subtitles on Derry blacksmith Newsdesk Newsdesk

The BBC has been criticised for adding “patronising” subtitles to an interview with a Northern Irish blacksmith on Countryfile.

Barney Devlin, 94, is a well-known local figure in Derry and the inspiration behind Seamus Heaney’s famous poem “The Forge”.

Speaking to BBC Radio Ulster, the Sinn Féin MP for the area, Francie Molloy, said he was very unhappy with the programme.

"I think this is part of an ongoing process by the BBC of insulting the Irish people both in culture and language, in this occasion putting subtitles over the voice.

"The subtitles were only coming up for Barney and in other episodes of the programme which covers different parts of the country, indeed the world, it's very seldom that you do see subtitles being used.

"Seamus Heaney was from the same part of the country and he was never subtitled. The people of south Derry have complained to us so we're passing that on to the BBC."

Several politicians reacted angrily when a repeat of the August episode aired on Sunday, with Ian Milne, Mid Ulster Sinn Fein MLA, claiming to be “shocked” by the use of subtitles and demanding an apology.

“Following the death of Heaney last year, Devlin was interviewed by media organisations from across the world, including the BBC, and they did not see the need for subtitles,” he told the Mid Ulster Mail.

“This has caused anger in the local community who are insulted by this unnecessary move. It is yet another example of the BBC’s lack of respect for Irish people and culture.”

Peter Weir, Democratic Unionist Party MLA, echoed Milne’s response, telling BBC 5 Live that he also found subtitles “somewhat insulting”.

“I sometimes see Countryfile and I can’t remember another occasion, despite the wide range of accents you hear in the United Kingdom, that I saw somebody subtitled,” he said. “Somebody at the BBC has acted in a slightly patronising and unnecessary way.”

A spokesperson for Countryfile has insisted that “no offence was intended” in the use of subtitles.

“We wanted as wide an audience as possible to appreciate Barney Devlin’s evocative memories of blacksmithing and of Seamus Heaney,” a statement read. “We discussed with Mr Devlin using subtitles and he was happy for this to happen.”

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