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?

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London