The BBC has no business making a silly unionist dig at Martin McGuinness

Just a bit of New Year harrumping. I see the Bel Tel  couldn’t resist joining the tease  that  Martin McGuinness  took on an “English aristocratic title” when he had to go through the traditional form of accepting an office of profit under the Crown in order to quit as an abstensionist MP. The BBC website even put up a headline with the “aristocratic “ tag which  with a bit of searching you can still find. It’s all very well for the papers and Pete and others in  Slugger to go in for a bit of teasing on the subject – though we had it before when Gerry Adams quit, you know. And Pete I hasten to add would never commit the “aristocratic” solecism.  But it’s entirely inappropriate for the unbiased BBC to make a headline out of it. First, it is clearly a unionist-type gibe they have no business making and secondly it’s plain wrong. Steward or Bailiff of the manor of Northstead, or the Chiltern Hundreds are the (phantom) offices of a lower down public functionary, certainly no “aristocrat”. The cack handed writer was groping towards “posh” or ” quaint ” or something and lit on ” aristocratic ” – that’ll do!  It couldn’t be more arcane but if you don’t know the lore, you’re better to not to mix with it.

I was fascinated to learn from the Treasury announcement though that Martin’s third Christian name is Pacelli. Just think, the former IRA boss named after the wartime and early post war Pope Pius XII .  Such namings were common enough in devout families up to the 1960s but seem to have tailed off now – or have I committed a howler of my own? Are there lots of Wojtylas and Ratzingers around Derry these days?

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  • Scáth Shéamais

    Maybe the BBC was trying to ‘balance out’ its original piece about McGuinness resigning, even though Westminster’s antiquated protocols don’t allow for that.

  • David Crookes

    The whole business is indeed embarrassing. Grown-up people tickling themselves under the ribs in an attempt to make themselves laugh at something which they know is neither funny nor significant.

    Parliament has contrived to get rid of many stupid old laws. Why can it not create a simple sensible procedure for the resignation of an MP?

    The proof that a person has a brain is that he refuses to think about stupid trivialities, over and over and over again.

  • socaire

    Never lose track of what the first ‘B’ stands for. And anyway Pacelli is good meat for it. Hasn’t he lain down with dawgs?

  • “he had to go through the traditional form of accepting an office of profit under the Crown in order to quit as an abstensionist MP”

    Brian, have you any proof that Martin accepted this office? Perhaps it was awarded but ignored. I wonder will any journalist put in an FoI request for a copy of the correspondence.

  • stewart1

    .’I wonder will any journalist put in an FoI request for a copy of the correspondence.’

    That sounds like too much hard work for most of them

  • Brian – Other than the post title, I’d like to think I put up an informational post about the arcane and bizarre process (which still has a few twists and turns) towards the by-election rather than teasing the previous MP for Mid-Ulster.

    Nevin – I think the Speaker was fairly clear last time that (and I paraphrase inaccurately!) being appointed would be enough and requesting or accepting was not essential.

  • JimboJones

    “unbiased BBC”

    That’s hilarious.

    Does anyone actually think there’s such a thing as “unbiased” news?

  • Mc Slaggart

    Alan what you are saying is George Osborne ( a member of the Anglo-Irish Ascendancy) will appoint a person who was an IRA leader to a job which he did not even ask for. I hope the clip goes up on Youtube.

  • None of this surprises me about the BBC Belfast that it exist to serve and favour roughly half of the taxpayers who fund it, and all you need to know about it’s bias is that it had to rename it’s radio station Radio Ulster in 1974 after the disgraceful forelock tugging to the UDA/UWC during the previous year’s blackmail of their own government. Now the main sport attended in NI is GAA and yet it’s the sport for the BBC that dares not speak it’s name for fear of their switchboards being jammed by furyletter readers. How can they justify live coverage of Orange Hate parades every summer when this organisation is a diminishing force in unionist part of population?. .

  • Mick Fealty

    I think it’s more to do with a poor grasp of what actually happens when an MP steps down. My concern is less a problem of bias than the Corporation’s being spun completely out of shape.

  • “Nevin – I think the Speaker was fairly clear last time”

    Thanks, Alan. I’ve gone a little bit further back in HoC exchanges that day. It seems the rot set in during PMQs:

    The Prime Minister [Gordon Brown]: First of all, just in case everyone has not caught up with the news, the right hon. Gentleman is quite right that the hon. Member for Belfast West has accepted an office of profit under the Crown, which is of course the only way to retire from this House. I am not sure that Gerry Adams will be delighted to be a Baron of the Manor of Northstead, but none the less, I am pleased that tradition has been maintained.

    Perhaps the BBC person used that source.

  • iluvni

    Does Danielsmoran believe the crap he’s posting about BBCNI and GAA coverage…seriously?

  • Brian Walker

    nevin. I wouldn’t waste my energy FOI ing on this. I think but not sure that no reply is necessary. The appointment is the reply to the application. And yes Gordon Brown made a mistake re ” baron”, neither his first not his biggest.

  • Ruarai

    A mild breeze in a tepid tea cup. Republicans have been called much worse by the British establishment down the years. Poking fun is harmless but does look puny.

    What I find almost interesting here is this. This playground name-calling ribbing routine is premised on an acknowledgement that associating Nationalists’ leaders with the signs and symbols of the British establishment is likely to annoy or even offend them and their constituents while offering a opportunity to the name-callers to get off on “Lording it”. Very well.

    But this being so, let’s run with this logic and cut the “what’s the problem?!” nonsense when it comes to whether or not there’s any controversy with such symbols being omnipresent all over NI…

  • pauluk

    Tongue in cheek. C’mon folks, lighten up!

  • Brian Walker

    I won’t get bogged down in history but just to say as one of the leads in reporting the 1974 UWC strike I reject the “forelock tugging” charge, although I understand the annoyance it caused. Personally – and others will furiously disagree – but I see nothing with using “Ulster “ even though of course I recognise it is not co-extensive with Northern Ireland. Many NI based institutions spill over the border quite naturally. I would even like to revive the Red Hand symbol rather than the insipid flax if only nationalists would agree. I should have thought the ambiguity of the designation might appeal to them, if they thought about it just a bit differently. Away with pedantry!

  • tacapall

    Daniel just like elements within the British government who pull the strings of those who attempted to burn police officers to death over the lowering of the British flag in Belfast they also pull the strings of those in the BBC who they employ to further their interests via disinformation or propaganda so its not surprising that a British controlled media outlet portrays someone who challenges their authority and bends the rules of British democracy to his or her advantage as somehow accepting their right to make the rules that decide how democracy works. It matters little how Martin McGuinness is portrayed by those with a British identity or a British controlled media outlet, playing the game of political chess is all that matters and if Martin McGuinness has to endure a red face in order to win the game then so be it, why will a reddner matter when so many before him have actually give their lives for the same cause.

  • Framer

    Ever noticed that with 7,000 journalists on the staff most of the BBC’s news output, especially at weekends, holidays, overnight and during training courses is churnalism for which they pay nothing.
    If you recall the BBC NI website majored last year during the 12th holidays on the Orange band going round in circles outside St Patrick’s, courtesy of footage supplied by Sinn Fein that was barely acknowledged.
    When the last local newspaper dies, they might then have to do nightshifts and hard slogs on the street.

  • “And yes Gordon Brown made a mistake re ” baron””

    Brian, you may have been over-egging it with ‘unionist jibe’. As a Scottish Presbyterian, the former prime minister might not be fully familiar with Westminster traditions.

    “And Pete I hasten to add would never commit the “aristocratic” solecism.”

    Well he did call Gerry ‘Baron Northstead’ yet the former member for Belfast West, I understand, was a mere bar steward.

  • Charlie Sheens PR guru

    Gordon Brown?

    It was Cameron who announced it to Doddsy et al.

    While I think this story is puerile, I think generally there is an embedded (conscious or otherwise) unionist bias within local ‘neutral’ media outlets.

    When Nolan has a shinner on to do his latest republican confessional schtick they usually say its time for all to admit their part: Republican, Loyalist, British Army, RUC, UDR etc…

    Given Ballymurphy, Bloody Sunday, collusion etc.. its prbably time for some BBC journo to decide to put a ex general etc.. in the dock for once. But that require a grown up debate about conflicts regarding genuine rihts and wrongs of empire, nationalism, uprising, principle etc..

    But its much easier to just finger the ex- lifer republican or heavily tatooed loyalist community worker as they ae easier targets and you probably grew up up he sreet from one meaning they don’t carry any mystique or grandeur that must be respected

  • “Gordon Brown?

    It was Cameron who announced it to Doddsy et al.”

    Thanks for the correction, Charlie. It was not my intention to mislead the House of Slugger 🙂

  • Drumlins Rock

    I will confess the pedant in me was also annoyed by the “arisocratic” headline. It should be a non story for all apart from the political geeks on slugger and the like, quiet news day on the BBC maybe justified carrying it, sloppy journalism spoilt it.

    As for the substance, the legal fiction is that the job of being an MP is so important you can’t resign, but obvious its a free country, therefore you are forced to take a silly title for a while instead. If anything maybe the process should be made harder to make MPs think harder about applying for the post, in this case I’m thinking of a certain Louise Mensch, not Pacelli

  • I wonder which party will raise the motion to get the writ to allow the by-election to succeed. You’d think an existing non-abstentionist NI MP would jump to the opportunity to trigger an election that might* result in a new bottom resting on a seat inside the Commons!

    * if pigs could fly

  • Brian Walker[2.42]I recall working on a building site that year as an apprentice on what would become the Dunclug estate, and having to leave the site for most of the strike fortnightListening to the daily half hour bulletins at 12.25 through to the NI news at five to one, was packed with information from the UDA Hq. I didn’t see much of the BBC TV coverage from Ormeau as we usually watched UTV Reports so I can’t say the scene around six editors were as supportive of the strike or not. Mostof the time the electricity was off from memory so no TV.

  • Submariner
  • I don’t think ‘the cack handed writer’ will waste too much time worrying about a guy who wades in on complex macroeconomic issues before taking the time to first learn how simple percentages work.

  • Granni Trixie

    For me it is the elephant in the room which is of interest in the story namely that McG is leaving a post which he never auctioned!

  • Granni Trixie

    Sorry but my IPad lost the room of itself auctioned should ofcourse have been actioned.

  • It is rather embarrassing that the UK’s flagship broadcasting corporation files a report which makes such an inaccurate description of a nominal title.

    I dont actually see it as a “unionist” jibe – rather more of a clumsy piece of reporting.

  • iluvni

    Submariner (profile)
    3 January 2013 at 5:08 pm


    but i’ll take any money going

  • Greenflag

    The Minister for Silly Walks and Sillier Names is alive and kicking in Westminster 2013 AD . John Cleese lives

  • Alias

    Iluvni, McGuinness is writing to the Chancellor for the express purpose of having the Chancellor appoint him to a paid office of the Crown. That is the protocol he is following.

    For McGuinness to add into his letter to the Chancellor seeking an appointment to a paid office of the Crown that he isn’t seeking appointment to a paid office of the Crown is purely fodder for the Shinner sheep.

    That is, presumably, why McGuinness had his letter photographed and released on the Internet.

    It wouldn’t be an issue, of course, if the Shinners didn’t make an issue of such appointments.

  • Alias

    It should be noted that McGuiness wouldn’t get the Queen’s shilling (50k in this instance) if the Chancellor didn’t appoint him to a paid office of the Crown and nor would Francie Molloy get his opportunity to stick his snout in the Crown’s trough.

  • sonofstrongbow

    The Shinners bleated for Westminster privileges for many years arguing that as elected MPs they were entitled under the rules to the dosh etc. Even today, if the linked letterhead is genuine, McGuinness would appear comfortable with using the British appellation ‘MP’.

    Whilst it can be argued that they were never in fact ‘members’ of Parliament, having failed to participate in the House, those self same rules clearly state how a resignation as an MP is facilitated.

    It matters not a jot how silly or antiquated those rules are. Nor it seems does it matter that an MP can pocket the readies without actually steeping through the doors of the chamber (given the monies involved even a duck house or moat are pretty small beer). The taxpayer, as no doubt will the Chancellor, will indulge these uncouth politicos. A charitable disposition is a British tradition.

  • Alias

    Incidentally, McGuinness didn’t have to follow the protocol that would lead to his appointment to a paid office of the Crown – if such an appointment was against his ‘principles’. He could have simply ‘abandoned’ his abstentionist seat.

    However, if he did that then he wouldn’t have got his 50k ‘severance’ package and nor would other Shinners be able to get their turn at the trough in an orderly and timely manner.

    Everyone has his/her price, and 50k seems to cover it.

  • GavBelfast

    If this stuff seems trivial (and it is, including the rather hysterical and pompously-written thread-opener) there, it seems absolutely ridiculous from the other side of the world.

    The procedure is a mildly amusing piece of flim-flam.

    Why get excited about it (on either side?).

  • Zig70

    This is trivial but it is slightly amusing to see an SF member being a baron in England. BBC is biased against GAA and also rugby and any other sport than soccer. Though it has improved in the last few years. The mobile BBC NI sport page was nothing but football for a while. If you don’t like it complain.

  • aquifer

    Free and easy rienforcement of the dominant political narrative, aided and abettted by flag waving youth militias.

    How much is the license fee again?

  • forthman


    Fair play to you. What you state is obviously true. You are challenging people who’s well paid wage and public pension, makes them subservient. Noam Chomsky’s ‘Manufacturing consent: The political economy of the mass media’, describes them perfectly. Although they might not know it! They are an essential tool of the establishments of both Ireland and Btitain.

  • Contrary to myth there are a few other ways for an MP to depart a seat. They can do so by voting in a division without taking the oath, or by accepting a peerage, or by getting appointed to one of the many public sector posts that are incompatible with Commons membership. Admittedly only the last could be more amenable for a Sinner. When this came up with Gerry Adams there was a suggestion flying around that the answer to several problems was to make him a director of Northern Ireland Water.