DERRY group the Holywell Trust is in the process of reviewing the language used by the media in the North. The research it’s engaged in is part of the Future Relationships Conversations Project, which is part-funded by the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs, which of course is headed up by unionist Brexit bête noir Simon Coveney.
So some crowd from Derry’s involved. Dublin’s involved. Simon Coveney’s involved. Ergo it must be a dastardly plot to do down the PUL people of This Here Pravince and advance the cause of a united Ireland. Loyal Ulster reacted with thrillingly predictable fury.
East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell told the Belfast Telegraph: “People have a right to be concerned about the Irish government̵’s contributions to ‘language’ in the media in Northern Ireland.
“It is absolutely right that the media should be held accountable for inaccuracies or biases, but this report smells like an attempt to sway the language and promote coverage that is sympathetic to nationalism and funded by the Irish government. The case for Northern Ireland’s place in the UK is strong and unilateral reporting needs are exposed, as I have often done, but this politically toxic way of doing it is unacceptable.”
The DUP man added: “I will never shy away from criticising the media when they do something wrong, while maintaining a free and independent press is the cornerstone of a fair society. Simon Coveney’s departmental funding for evaluating what is communicated to the public should also be subject to public scrutiny.”
The TUV’s Steven Cooper told the Irish Government to “mind its own business”.
“The broadcast media in Northern Ireland is regulated by UK law. The Dublin Government has no role in formulating or, potentially, amending that law,” he said.
“What is broadcast in this part of the United Kingdom is no more part of Dublin’s remit than the content of RTE is of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport in London. Frankly, Dublin should mind its own business and not be permitted to continue their belligerence and unwanted interference in UK affairs.”
The Ulster commentariat weighed in too. Writing in the News Letter, Henry McDonald noted: “I find it telling that the tender also refers to an organisation called the Future Relationship Conversations team, which talks about Brexit and the possibility of a border poll being more likely.
“This suggests to me that those behind the project are nationalists and that it is they who are somewhat upset about the uncomfortable topics and issues the Nolan Show and perhaps others in journalism might cover locally.
“It find it equally revealing that Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney’s department is co-funding the ‘research’ into the Northern Ireland media. It is deeply troubling that a state, any state let alone one at present which is regarded as increasingly hostile by a majority of unionists, should be sponsoring a project that many believe is designed to shut down debate, censor reporting and dictate media agendas.”
But wait. What’s this? In a statement responding to queries about its funding of the project, the Deparment of Foreign Affairs in Dublin said: “This funding was to support a broad ranging project involving dialogue and research in relation to options for future relationships and constitutional arrangements on the island of Ireland without any predetermined outcome or agenda. The project was intended to draw out diverse views, with a particular focus on those from a Protestant, Unionist, or Loyalist tradition.
“It also envisaged conducting research into relevant topics intended to support an informed and constructive dialogue that would support reconciliation.
“The particular topics for research were to be identified during the project through dialogue and engagement by the Holywell Trust.
“The Department of Foreign Affairs had no role in deciding what particular areas should be included.”
So, let’s see now. The project places a particular focus on the concerns and view of the PUL community. And Mr Coveney’s department had no say in drawing up the subjects that the project would tackle. So Ulster was exhibiting its familiar furious furiosity about an initiative that was designed to be nice to it. Nice.
And because there are certain people out there who wouldn’t believe a word that came out of Dublin’s mouth, here’s what Paul Gosling of the Holywell Trust, had to say about the nature and make-up of the media language initiative: “It has to be stressed the idea came from engagement with unionists.” More proof, if more proof were needed, of unionism propensity to kick off even when there’s nothing to kick off about.
Mr Gosling added: “It’s really important to stress that the Holywell Trust is a non-partisan peace and reconciliation charity and the purpose of this work is to make sure we have a sensible, rational conversation that brings people together whatever the future of the constitutional arrangement.”
Now Squinter’s doesn’t know whether those who claimed this project was a dastardly republican plot were unacquainted with the facts or were fully aware of the facts of the case but cracked ahead anyway because anger is their factory setting. But as much of the critical commentary took place well after Mr Gosling had laid out his stall in an interview with the Belfast Telegraph, you do get the feeling that this was more than a failure of due diligence.

Oh, come all ye faithful – but not just yet


WELL over six weeks to Halloween and Christmas has started in the shops. The shelves in the store pictured here are a winter wonderland, but the tape has gone up and so browsers only get a tantalising glimpse of what might be going on the tree or the mantelpiece this year.
When’s the tape coming down? That’s what Squinter wants to know. Not because he necessarily wants to buy any of this stuff, but so’s he knows to start staying in the house a little bit more.
A wee social media birdy tells Squinter that there’s a house in Iveagh already lit up like the Griswolds’ gaff in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. And as a columnist with a proud career dedicated to truth and commitment, all Squinter has to do is drive down there and find out for himself. But his nerve has failed him as he’s not sure how he’d react to the sight of a neon Santa and reindeers on the roof while he’s still drinking beer in the garden at the weekend.
Might it be – whisper it gently – that this record-breakingly early Christmas is the fault of... Brexit? In recent months we’ve been reading worrying stories about how the festive season is going to be hit by the severe shortage of lorry drivers in the UK brought about by the mass return of EU drivers to Europe. (‘But it’s also the fault of Covid and the EU is short of drivers too,’ cry the Brexit cheerleaders, conveniently ignoring the fact that there are no empty supermarket shelves in Germany, France or Spain.) Have the big chains been getting their Christmas gear in early to avoid the rush? Perhaps, but if all the big chains get in early to avoid the Christmas rush that would simply create an early Christmas rush, no? Is your head hurting too?
Thought so.