Decision made to 'avoid creating the impression that it has a position on matters of political contention or controversy.'
THOUSANDS took to the streets of Belfast last weekend for a Pride parade, but the BBC, which had paid £250.00 to be corporately represented at the event pulled out at the last minute.
The head of BBC Northern Ireland, Peter Johnston, inset, apologised to staff over “confusion” around participation in Belfast Pride.
In an email last Friday he said the organisation would not be “involved corporately” in the event. The email came after a memo to staff said BBC NI would, for the first time, be taking part in the parade, wearing branded T-shirts.
In declaring a sudden change in plan, Johnston said in an email:
We know that there are legislative issues specific to Northern Ireland in relation to same-sex marriage.
These raise important considerations for the BBC in the context of its Editorial Guidelines, including the requirement to maintain due impartiality within our output.
None of this means that members of the BBC Pride network cannot be involved in Pride festivities in Belfast, but it does require BBC Northern Ireland to avoid creating the impression that it has a position on matters of political contention or controversy.
In an interview with BBC News NI a day before the parade, Johnston added that communication “probably could have been clearer”.
Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster, Jim Allister , above, of the Traditional Unionist Voice Party, said said he welcomed the BBC withdrawal
Having stood back and observed what they had done, I welcome the fact that BBC came to its senses on this and recognised they were totally surrendering their impartiality on the issues so entwined in this parade.
He added that the BBC had:
Backed off and climbed down from something they should never have put themselves in to.
Allister holds conservative views on social policy and is a supporter of the evangelical creationist lobby group, the Caleb Foundation.
According to RationalWiki, Allister is:
A Northern Irish far-right unionist politician who’s the leader of the TUV. Since the party was established in 2007, they’ve only ever managed to get one seat in the Northern Ireland assembly. Perhaps his party’s vicious sectarianism and homophobia could have something to do with it.
Jim is the political equivalent of hemorrhoids: All-around disgusting bloody shit, but he never quite goes away.
Jim also spends a lot of time being angry that it’s not the 11th-century anymore; he’s opposed to virtually any form of equality. Allister supported Ian Paisley’s ‘Save Ulster from Sodomy’ to keep male homosexuality illegal.
When asked in 2013 if his views had changed on LGBT equality, he admitted he wished homosexuality was still illegal. He was also delighted when he heard about Uganda’s campaign to give LGBTQ people life imprisonment sentences and even the death penalty.
A first for this year’s celebrations was the appearance of Irish premier Leo Varadkar, above, who posed for selfies with participants. He also posted photos on Twitter and wrote:
Biggest march in Northern Ireland is not orange or green, it’s rainbow coloured. This is NI at its best. Best of Britishness and Irishness.
Varadkar, Ireland’s first openly gay premier, also joined 60,000 people in Dublin for its Pride march in June this year. His presence in Belfast will be seen as a significant moment, as same-sex marriage remains a contentious political issue in Northern Ireland where LGBT couples hoping to tie the knot cannot legally do so
Since January 2017 there has been no functioning government, causing Labour MPs, Stella Creasy and Conor McGinn, to table bill amendments to change the law to be in line with the rest of the UK.
The changes were approved in Parliament, meaning if a government has not been restored in Northern Ireland by October 21, same-sex marriage will be legalised. If this happens, new laws regarding same-sex marriage will come into force by January 2020.