Changed times for the head of BBC NI?

This Obit for James Hawthorne, lays out some of the difficulty for anyone trying to give fair play to all sides in its coverage of Northern Ireland during its troubled past. Whether Hawthorne ever achieved that is doubtful (who could who had to cover the Hunger Strike period?), but what is known is that he and his family faced serious death threats.

The most serious came from Protestant extremists after objective but, in their view, excessive BBC coverage of the IRA hunger strikers’ deaths in 1981. Hawthorne and his wife and two of their children left Belfast at a few hours’ notice and a police guard was allocated to his third child at school in Wales. He himself returned immediately, living for some time in a safe house and driving to and from work in a rusty old banger that he felt no self- respecting terrorist would target. He had already had one hoax bomb attached to his car, and these incidents, together with an intelligence warning that the IRA planned to kidnap his son, give some indication of the strain imposed on him. He responded with resilience, courage and humour. In 1982 he was appointed CBE.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty