Monday, 7 October 2013


The Blether Region very much enjoyed last night's BBC2 NI programme on Lord Castlereagh, even if the subtly Englified tones of John Bew did grate a little. The handsome hour-long documentary afforded a rare opportunity to examine in detail the life story of a politician who, Dr. Bew convincingly argued, was an unjustly neglected local boy made good. The production values were high, with on-location filming not only in Northern Ireland, but the Republic, England and various parts of mainland Europe. It could have been, and one hopes will be, shown on BBC4.

In fact, the Blether Region could see little reason for complaint.

That is, until it saw who had pit up the siller for the programme — the Ulster-Scots Broadcast Fund. Although the documentary informed us that Castlereagh had an accent, it remains a fact that he was a politician, not a dialect poet. What it all had to do with Ulster Scots is anyone's guess, but various predilections might be suspected: the definition of "Ulster-Scot" as an ethnic-cum-religious category long after it has ceased to be one; the seeking after right-wing friends who support "Ulster" and whose reactionary behaviour, in a welcome side-effect, makes it look good; and an obsession with history as the means to project today's Manichaean political struggles back into the past.

And the end result is to do nothing for Scots while subsidising the BBC and thus enabling it to send even more of the NI licence fee to London.

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