The issue of those elusive truths about the past re-emerged in questions to the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Industry yesterday over an apparently expensive podcast for tourists visiting west Belfast. As Mark Devenport notes, “during Assembly question time we had another reminder that whilst the politicians may wish to march towards a bright new future they remain at loggerheads over the past”. [“Deadlock and stasis” – Ed] Mick was on Morning Ireland briefly discussing the dispute over the preferred narrative. [RealPlayer file]From Hansard’s record of proceedings in the NI Assembly
6. Mr P Maskey asked the Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment when the podcast initiative that has been worked on by the Belfast area partnership boards and the Belfast Visitor and Convention Bureau will be launched. (AQO 2816/09)
The Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment: I have no doubt that cultural tourism has a part to play in Northern Ireland. We have a rich cultural identity that provides the potential to encourage more visitors, particularly from overseas, to come here. When developing a cultural product for Northern Ireland, it is vital that the product is accurate, informative and balanced and that it takes into account the needs of visiting tourists and the residents of Northern Ireland.
Looking at the podcast script for west Belfast, I cannot say that the commentary for the area is either accurate or balanced. I have concern that the script is politically biased towards one community. Before the podcasts are published I want to see a revision to the west Belfast script. I will be more than happy to support the podcast publication as soon as an accurate, informative and balanced script is produced.
Mr P Maskey: Go raibh maith agat, a Cheann Comhairle. I am very disappointed with the Ministers answer. That is probably the first time that she has heard that today; everybody else said that they were happy with her answers. I am very angry because that process has been ongoing for more than two years. Well over £100,000 of public money will have been wasted if the initiative is not finalised by the end of June 2009. People have worked vary hard to bring forward the proposal. Experts from the area and all the area partnership boards in Belfast put together the scripts. When we were asked about the differences that the Minister may have, a group of experts and historians was brought in to check the data in the west Belfast script, and they agreed the script. When will it be ready, or is the Minister going to waste more than £100,000 of taxpayers money?
The Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment: The Member should realise that this Minister did not set up the panel to which he referred, and this Minister will not be bound by anything that others do. I have to be satisfied that the scripts are accurate and balanced, and, quite frankly, the scripts for west Belfast are neither. One script refers to how loyalists fired from the Shankill area over the street before the peace wall was erected. To any objective person, the script suggests that everything came from one side. That is not true. It is a fact [Interruption.]
Mr Speaker: Order.
The Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment: It is a matter of record that that is simply not true. I will not be involved in anything that is not balanced. If the Member is seriously concerned about a waste of public funds, he should tell the people who are involved in the podcast initiative to give me something that I can sign off. If that is provided, I will be only too happy to sign off on it.