Northern Ireland

BBC Countryfile subtitles an 'insult' to County Londonderry blacksmith

Barney Devlin
Image caption The blacksmith behind the famous Seamus Heaney poem The Forge

The BBC has been criticised for using subtitles in an interview with a County Londonderry blacksmith on its Countryfile programme.

Both the DUP and Sinn Féin said it was an "insult" to Barney Devlin and the people of south Derry.

The Castledawson blacksmith was the inspiration behind Seamus Heaney's poem, The Forge.

The BBC said "No offence was intended" and that it wanted "as wide an audience as possible".


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."


The DUP MLA, Peter Weir, told BBC 5Live that he also felt it was wrong.

"I felt that what Barney had to say was relatively distinct and that the use of subtitles was both unnecessary and somewhat insulting to a 94-year-old man.

"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.

"Somebody at the BBC has acted in a slightly patronising and unnecessary way."

A spokesperson for BBC Countryfile said:

"No offence was intended. We wanted as wide an audience as possible to appreciate Barney Devlin's evocative memories of blacksmithing and of Seamus Heaney.

"We discussed with Mr Devlin using subtitles and he was happy for this to happen."

The Countryfile episode featuring Mr Devlin was first broadcast back in August but was repeated on Sunday.

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