Is no DUP in the TV debates good for Northern Ireland’s image?

If I understand him rightly, Newton Emerson in the Sunday Times (£) regrets the absence (subject to expensive  legal action if it happens, which I doubt) of the Northern Ireland parties from the UK national TV election debates – if they finally happen. What Newton regrets tongue in cheek is the absence of a national airing of all sorts of vigorous DUP opinions of the subjects of race, immigration, private lives, confessional beliefs etc that put UKIP in the shade. Who can forget Pastor McConnell  on Islam “ the spawn of the devil”? Somehow though I would have expected the DUP to have cleaned their act up as they finally did under pressure over the venerable pastor and when Question Time comes to town. On the other hand, who’s to say they wouldn’t win plenty of support for their line on abortion and gay cakes? Sadly though even with two debates featuring the lesser parties there wouldn’t be time for the DUP to get round to defending their distinctive versions of British values. I’m sorry too that the jostling for places barely extended to Sinn Fein. We were never going to experience the treat of hearing why Labour might want to get into Bed with Gerry Adams and what SF might settle for in return. It would be too – well – Irish – to include in already overstuffed debates a party that despite rumours will continue to abstain from Westminster. In regional coverage the local parties will no doubt get full rein in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. What hasn’t been spotted is how UKIP lose out in this.  There is no equivalent single BBC England to concentrate fire, although the English regions and local radio will no doubt do their best.

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