Blue Peter in Ulster controversy – Eh?!

Blue Peter‘s in hot water! Apparently their presenter Zoe Salmon got them into a right old tangle when she innocently suggested that the Red Hand of Ulster would make a good design for a model aeroplane. End of story? Oh, no! In fact, this one line was sooo provocative that no less than a professor of sociology from Strathclyde University complained in the strongest of terms!

Since then it seems a letter of apology (Media Lens has a copy of the original) has made it’s way to Glasgow, with the Blue Peter prodution team wearing the kind of sackcloth and ashes once intended by the Reverend Ian Paisley for the IRA!

However even that’s not good enough for the good professor:

“The outstanding issue which arises from the compliant is who gave the erroneous advice that ‘both communities are equally attached to it’? Was it the presenter? If so, was her use of the union jack coloured map of Ireland a deliberate provocation?”

Thanks to reader Ricardo for the heads up!

PS: anyone told the Beragh Red Knights GFC, or the even the Tyrone county Gaelic team?

  • willowfield

    What a lot of nonsense. The professor of sociology needs to wise up.

    Someone should tell the GAA that the red hand is a loyalist paramilitary symbol.

    If a southern presenter had suggested that the shamrock be used as a symbol for Ireland (a harmless symbol but probably more associated with nationalism than with unionism – a kind of reverse of the red hand), would the sociology professor have been complaining?

    Time some people became a bit more tolerant. Ulster exists as a distinct region, has done for centuries, and its inhabitants are perfectly entitled to be proud of that and the symbols associated with it.

  • George

    Willowfield is right. The red hand is for everyone. It’s the club emblem of Na Piarsaigh, Cork county hurling champions of 2004.
    Na Piarsaigh baulked against the “imperial geography of modern Unionism” as Ruari calls it and selected the symbolic red hand of Ulster with severed thumb as the club crest after careful consideration.

    The red hand represents the island that is Ireland, the severed thumb the six north-eastern counties. The legend is that when Ireland is united the thumb will again rejoin the fingers to create a strong and useful hand. In the meantime they’ll just keep one O’Hailpin a year.

    Maybe Zoe should have also just lopped off the thumb then everyone would have been happy.

  • Beowulf

    “Like the swastika the red hand is a symbol that has been misappropriated. It is the symbol of the unionists and is certainly not signed up to by the majority,”

    I think I’ll write to Strathclyde University complaining about comparison of the swastika and the red hand…

  • peteb

    professor of sociology – that’s all I needed to read.

  • Frank McGahon

    Isn’t Zoe Salmon from Bangor Co. Down?

  • Beowulf

    Should anyone want to help the gentle Professor in his research here’s his website, with email address on the top right; after all we have enough problems in this part of the world without more people adding to the noise.

  • peteb

    Propaganda and media distortion indeed.

  • IJP

    the Red Hand of Ulster, a sectarian loyalist symbol,

    Stating this as fact is simply poor reporting.

    I’m glad we’re all agreed that the guy needs to wise up. Learning a few facts might be a good idea too. But then, I suppose sociology… I’ll not go there…

    Isn’t Zoe Salmon from Bangor Co. Down?

    Yes. Got a problem with that…? :)))

  • El Matador

    Pardon my ignorance, but how does one quote in italics?

  • Mick Fealty

    El M: You need to use html code like this

  • idunnomeself

    I can’t believe it.. widely used by both sides (as pointed out above), not solely an extreme symbol anyway in Unionism.. The complainants need to wise up.

    What sort of country is it where you have to pretend to be nothing?? how does it show respect for anyone’s traditions to make one side pretend they don’t have any?

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Title: Red Hand of Ulster
    Description: The Red Hand of Ulster is the official seal of the O’Neill family. It is believed to originate from a mythical tale wherein two chieftains were racing across a stretch of water in a bid to be the first to reach the land and claim it as his own. Realising his foe would touch the land first, one chieftain cut off his hand and threw it onto the shore, thereby claiming the land before his adversary reached it. The Red Hand is one of the only emblems in Northern Ireland used by both communities in Northern Ireland although it is more associated with the Protestant community. Catholics see it as representing the nine counties of Ulster while Protestants see it as representing the six counties of Northern Ireland. The Red Hand of Ulster appears on many murals and flags.

  • Beowulf

    Please do write to Prof Miller and the Guardian. It peeves me no end to have some twit say something, and some other twit report it, that attacks one of the few things around here that we mostly all agree on.
    We get demeaned enough by this crap, no need for the Guardian and Professor Miller to make stuff up.

    Can you tell I’m angry?

  • PS

    I find it hugely offensive.

    Daring to suggest the symbol of Tyrone GAA in a children’s competition. It’s likely to give the poor kids nightmares.

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    What a load of old bollox, is this professor any relation to Jim Rodgers who seems to wait by the phone for a ready quote over some alleged grievance.

  • Belfast Gonzo


    LOL! And it seems so believable too!

  • feismother

    My mother wore a Red Hand on her Irish dancing costume back in the forties. Apparently it almost caused a riot when she first appeared wearing it until its true origins were explained.

  • JD

    Compromise: A red hand with all but the index-finger severed. It does exactly what it says on the tin.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    The Guardian story appears to have been updated to include:

    The row over Blue Peter has sparked furious protests on weblogs and to the feedback pages of MediaGuardian with readers pointing out the red hand has been used by many organisations on both sides of the religious divide including Gaelic Athletic Association teams such as a Cork hurling team and a Tyrone Gaelic football team.

    Gee, I wonder what they are referring to!

  • peteb

    I think a round of applause is called for


    Now.. we’ve just got to get the BBC to retract the apology…

  • JD

    That of course should be middle finger, not index. I’ll never play piano again…

  • Belfast Gonzo

    From the feedback section in Media Guardian at,14007,1084217,00.html

    Blue Peter’s red hand blunder

    January 21: I am emailing to complain about today’s poorly researched article about the Blue Peter presenter Zoe Salmon’s use of the ancient Red Hand symbol to represent Ulster. Dominic Timms discription of the Red Hand as a ‘sectarian loyalist symbol’ and Professor David Miller’s comments comparing it to the swastika are an insult to the people of Ulster and Northern Ireland. The symbol is used in both the flag of Northern Ireland (representing the six counties) and the nine county Ulster flag 9 (largely flown by nationalists). Between them, the two flags are recognised by all the people of Northern Ireland. The symbol has been used by extreme loyalists, in the same way as the Union Jack flag was hijacked by the National Front, but to the majority of the people of Northern Ireland, it is a non-offensive symbol of their country. I’d suggest that your journalists speak to people from the area they are writing about before publication. I hope to see an apology for the comments of Mr Timms and Mr Miller in tomorrow’s Guardian.

    David Nevin.

  • Davros

    I wonder why the Good Professor didn’t complain when the Team that won the European Cup (Rugby) in 1999 sported a red hand on their strip. Will he be organising pickets of the Ulster Team when they play in Scotland ?

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    I believe that the only way I can properly emphasise my disgust at this breach of my human rights is to administer a red hand of my own to Zoes’ posterior.

  • Belfast Gonzo


    A ‘Pat’ is surely enough.

    Oh dear…

    Anyway, the papers will be carrying this story tomorrow, so keep an eye out for the Irish News at least.

    And surely we would expect Miss Northern Ireland to be a partitionist anyway!?


  • IJP

    I wonder why the Good Professor didn’t complain when the Team that won the European Cup (Rugby) in 1999 sported a red hand on their strip.

    Nor indeed when the team that won the Sam in 2003 sported a red hand on their strip…

    Anyway, the papers will be carrying this story tomorrow, so keep an eye out for the Irish News at least.

    Indeed I will not. I don’t buy papers that fail to report news and spend their time reporting non-news.

    Whatever happened to mutual respect?

  • Davros

    Nor indeed when the team that won the Sam in 2003 sported a red hand on their strip…

    I think we can kazard a guess as to the answer to that one.

  • Alan

    Is this the first time we’ve all agreed wholeheartedly about something?

    Congratulations to Mr Miller’s ignorance for uniting our fractious people over the meaning of a symbol.

  • peteb

    WE might all agree.. but it looks like the Guardian still hasn’t got the message Red faces at Blue Peter over red hand – “the sectarian red hand of Ulster symbol”

  • twinkilcooleywithcoxsdemesne

    You betray your ages lads – throughout the worst years of the troubles, the Irish Bonding Company in Severn Street, East Belfast, bottled Red Hand Guinness, which was drunk on the Falls, the Shankill, in Bangor, Co Down and Dundalk, Co Louth, without as much as an eyelid being raised.

  • Davros

    Slugger makes the Belfast Tele Today

    Backlash at Zoe Red Hand apology

    On the website Slugger O’Toole, which invites comment on Northern Ireland matters, the BBC apology came under fire from a wide range of contributors. Some pointed out that the Red Hand is used by Tyrone GAA.
    One contributor wrote: “My mother wore a Red Hand on her Irish dancing costume back in the Forties.”

    p.s. cg – will this mean there will be even less people in S Armagh with TV licenses ? 😉

  • sanfrancisco

    Blue Peter? Is that a condition you can get from standing outside in the winter?

  • CavanMan

    ahhh yes this zoe girl deserves to get punished.I cant lend a hand in it if necessary ;).What if any political background does she have?If she came from a republican background would this event have been so publiscised?

  • Alan2

    hmmm…the Ulster Rugby team uses the Red Hand, Tyrone GAA uses the Red Hand, The Northern Ireland Football team uses the Red Hand
    ulster GAA uses the Red Hand, the 9 county Ulster provincial crest (with the yellow background as used on maps of Ireland and by the Ulster Unionists) uses the Red Hand. The Northern Ireland Fire Brigade uses the Red Hand. Many, many Schools and Councils from both communites use the Red Hand on their school crests. And of course the Northern Ireland flag uses the Red Hand Of Ulster

    The BBC has definitely got it wrong on this one. No apologies needed what so ever.

    Professor David Miller needs to get a life.

  • JoJo22

    I think they all need to wise up especially the media, the Red Hand is for all unless your that professor or the The Sun, this is what they said. Headline “Terror gaffe on kids’ TV” BLUE Peter bosses have apologised after presenter Zoe Salmon suggested a terrorist symbol would make a good logo for an airline.

    Can you believe that, Scottish Professors, the English media, I’m beginning to think the only wise ones are us here in Ireland, north and South. We saw it for what it was a kids show.

  • Alan

    Has anyone heard back from the Professor, the Guardian or the BBC yet?

  • Davros
  • JoJo22

    I was sick when I heard of the BBC apology, but I’m also annoyed at Zoe’s Mother who felt the need to apologize to the The Sunday Times while shifting any supposed blame for the use of the Red Hand to her poor husband.

    Priscilla, Salmon’s mother, said there had not been a political motive behind her daughter’s broadcasts. Speaking from the family home in Bangor she said Zoe had decided to use the symbol after a phone conversation with her father Joe days before the program was aired. “It was he who just threw it out,” she said. “She actually thought about using the Giant’s Causeway or something like that. If she had spoken to me I would have just said something that is not going to stir up anything. “My husband thought it was historical and didn’t think.”

    Now what dose Mrs. Salmon mean by “something that is not going to stir up anything” and “My husband thought it was historical and didn’t think”, it seems to me she is just as stupid as that Professor, the Red Hand is indeed historical.

    Mrs Salmon has no need to apologize and the BBC have no need ether, they have been dictated to by a few idiots who know nothing about the Red Hand and its importance to both sides. I wish the media and the BBC would look into things a little more before they promote this sort of thing, the publicity surrounding the Red Hand and the Swastika does nothing for good relations in Ulster or peoples view of us on the world stage.

    Lynda Gilby in the Sunday Life says that the Professor should be sent a Blue Peter badge and a prize, “The History of Ireland” well I think they should also send Mrs. Salmon one.
    No apology needed.

  • cg

    “p.s. cg – will this mean there will be even less people in S Armagh with TV licenses ? ;)”

    LOL, I didn’t know there was any that paid in the first place 😉

  • Donnie

    This has been blown out of all proportion, but isn’t this only half the story? She also picked out a map of GB and Ireland covered in a Union Jack as a prize winner. She makes Jade Goody look like Einstein! I will not pass comment on Professor. Dear oh dear…..

  • Rebecca Black

    She has a degree in law from Queens Donnie, I hardly think she compares to Jade Goody.

  • Davros

    Ohhhhh, it’s so tempting to say something about Queens Law students LOL

  • Donnie

    Since when was a degree an indicator of common sense? During my time at university I had the misfortune to meet many dumb people, few of whom had an ounce of common sense or social grace. Granted, they were Poly students……..

  • Rebecca Black

    Well, I think she actually has a first in law, can’t be certain though. She was also Miss Northern Ireland a few years ago, she clearly has both brains and is used to being in the spotlight.

    She also asked her parents advice before she said that on TV which indicates she is not an idiot like Jade Goody, she had thought about it. Furthermore why shouldn’t she suggest the red hand as a symbol of Northern Ireland, it is widely used as a symbol of Northern Ireland.

  • Donnie


    No-one here is suggesting she shouldn’t have used the symbol as it is widely used on both sides of the cultural divide. She should have realised that in NI this stuff is media fodder and they would question why she chose it. Her family should have refused to dignify any questions with a response.

  • idunnomeself

    well donnie it was picked up in the Guardian and in Strathclyde, not in NI. The reaction from NI has been very supportive of her

  • Donnie

    If she needs comforting she can get me on 079…….

  • beano

    Check this out guys:

    Northern Ireland football fans to show support for Zoe Salmon and Old Trafford.

    I’ve also complained to the Guardian about their coverage of the story in my blog.

    BTW: has anyone asked the question yet what a university professor was doing watching Blue Peter in the first place?

  • Davros

    Having seen pictures of Ms Salmon, I can guess!

  • cg

    blondes, huh

    Couldn’t hold a candle to Kate Beckinsale 😉

  • Davros

    How do you vote in the Dove Soap debate ? 😉

    There’s been a fuss about a red-head being dropped from their campaign!

  • cg

    I abstained 😉

  • Davros

    You sat on the fence ? How very…stoopish 😉

  • cg

    I don’t like red-heads so it would have been wrong to vote but I support their campaign

    Don’t you dare call me a stoop!!

    Go mbeadh cosa gloine fút agus go mbrise an ghloine 😉

    (only joking)

  • Davros

    Go mbeadh cosa gloine fút agus go mbrise an ghloine

    Is that bad ? Can I get it treated on the NHS ? LOL

    Go n-ithe an cat thú is go n-ithe an diabhal an cat!

    (ain’t google wonderful! )

  • cg

    I don’t like cats but some people think I am the devil already 😉

    My phrase was actually quite restrained 😉

    I love Irish swear words, they are much more expressive than english.

  • cg

    “Can I get it treated on the NHS”

    You can claim off the NIO the way the rest do 😉

  • Davros

    LOL – oíche mhaith. I’ll dig out that reference about red-heads the marra. It’s interesting though that Dove chose to drop her from their Irish Campaign.

  • cg

    Oíche mhaith

  • maca

    Speaking of red-heads, the article in the Indo reckons 10 per cent of the population are redheads. Can it be that many??

  • Davros

    After ‘nearly 900 years’ of oppression I’m surprised it’s that low – More seriously, I reckon those dimwits haven’t realised that a lot of the red-heads they see around and about dye their hair 😉

  • Donnie

    Can anyone explain to me why most men in this country get a reddish tinge to their stubble and sideburns when they grow out a bit? I have fair hair and I get a ginger tinge and my father-in-law had really dark hair and also gets the same. Weird……

  • Davros

    Can anyone explain to me why most men in this country get a reddish tinge to their stubble and sideburns when they grow out a bit?

    900 odd years of oppression Donnie 😉 One problem with that theory is that I too have ginge-tinge and I’m supposedly one of the oppressors !

  • maca

    I’ve read that when you ladz invaded there was quite a number of umpa lumpas with you, could that explain it? 😉

  • Davros

    Dare I ask – what is an Umpa Lumpa ? LOL

  • maca

    Ever seen Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory? 😉

  • Davros

    Nope 🙂 I feel so humiliated …. 😉