“quite frankly, the scripts for west Belfast are neither.”

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

Podcast Initiative

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 Minister’s 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.

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  • “We can take a leaf out of the Republic’s book and focus a little more on the future” .. Mick

    OOPs. Maybe not the most perceptive comment in light of the major debate on abuse scandals.

  • smcgiff

    Was listening to the MI interview this morning – they must have mentioned sluggerotoole at least three times 🙂

  • How on earth do you spend £100,000 on a podcast? Surely there is more to this.

  • august69andallthat

    Mick,

    What a miserably dishonest, mealy-mouthed, middle-of-the-road take on what is to my mind an outrageous intervention on the part of the minister. I honestly don’t know how you live with yourself.

    Nowhere in the transcript does Foster say that she objects to merely ‘two or three words in the podcast,’ nor does any one from SF claim that it would take £100,000 to change a few words, yet that is what you very definitely imply in your interview. Before tittering about how we love to have a go at each other ‘up here’. Next time there’s a thread on paddywhackery remember you indulge in it yourself when it will get you a laugh out of an RTE interviewer….

    It is completely disingenuous to imply that SF is overly sensitive around this issue because of the ‘revelations’ that have been so stridently pushed on this site about the defense of the Short Strand. You leave the impression in your interview – and it is difficult to read it as anything but deliberate – that republicans intentionally shot ‘one of their own’ in the Short Strand, and then had been forced to cover it up. I think that Slugger readers have made very short shrift of that angle on another thread, but you don’t seem to be paying attention. Or maybe you have but choose to hold onto an untenable one for politics sake. Disgusting, dishonest.

    The establishment here (and for many years that has meant the unionist establishment) has done everything in its power to craft a fairy tale version of the history of the Northern Ireland state, and that version has been willfully imposed on nationalists–through the print, tele and now web media, and through the production of history at universities and elsewhere. Your interview merely goes to show that new technologies mean nothing without a challenge to that deeply entrenched, fundamentally dishonest tradition of ‘misremembering the past.’ Old wine in new bottles, Mick. That’s all you’ve got on offer.