Reporting Norn Iron

Fascinating BBC Norn Iron documentary last night. Four journalists who had reported on Norn Iron for TV News returned to Belfast to talk about their time here.

Martin Bell………I have always regarded as a pompous ass. He was easily the most unpopular (with republican audiences) of the TV Newsmen who did a stint in Belfast in the 1970s. Too…….BBC. While he did a good job in defeating Neil Hamilton in the 1997 General Election……..his man in the white suit, only man in the world who has ethics routine……..wears a bit thin. Arguably the title of Most Unpopular London BBC Man With Ormeau Avenue Secretaries goes to a reporter they called “the poisoned carrot”.

In strictness Peter Taylor is a documentary reporter rather than a day-to-day BBC hack. Responsible for in depth programmes on loyalists and republicans, he was chatting (seperately) to old contacts Jackie McDonald and Danny Morrison about the old days and the new days.

Bill Neely of ITN now their Foreign Editor………spoke movingly about his first big assignment the bomb at the Droppin’Well bar in Ballykelly, where several were killed. His guilt at being …..”excited”. Neely is actually a local boy made good.

Star was undoubtedly Kate Adie. Long an irritant to the Establishment (ask Norman Tebbitt) she seems more like the fictional Murphy Browne than ever. I declare an interest. Kate once gave me her autograph (in a Chinese restaurant on the Dublin Road in Belfast). How to make Norn Iron of interest in the 1970s and 1980s to the English viewers. Not easy as Kate said. She did not really know what Norn Iron was about……..why people got so worked up about local government reform……until her first assignment when she checked into BBC Norn Iron and found how few Catholics there were in the newsroom.

Ah things are better now. They do let Catholics into the BBC Newsroom but of course nationalists and republicans are still a bit “iffy”. They make up 40 per cent of the votes cast.

Yet BBC Norn Iron journalists wax lyrical about the BBC ethos. Perhaps Kate was not part of the “wider freemasonry of journalism”.

Of course in BBC London, the British Intelligence Services had an office. The MI5 guy had files on BBC journos and curiously the files had a “Christmas tree” sticker to indicate that the journo was “one of us”. Of course Journalism is an ideal cover for “espionage” and no doubt some journos earn some extra dosh by filing reports to MI5/6 from Moscow or Belfast.

Did MI5/6 have on site office in Ormeau Avenue? I have no idea but it would have been odd if they did not have journalists on the payroll.

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