BBC Countryfile subtitles on Northern Irish blacksmith branded 'insulting and patronising'

Local politicians have reacted angrily to the use of subtitles in an interview

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The Independent Culture

The BBC has been criticised for adding “patronising” subtitles to an interview with a Northern Irish blacksmith on Countryfile.

Barney Devlin, aged 94 from County Londonderry, is a well-known local figure and the inspiration behind Seamus Heaney’s famous poem “The Forge”.

Several politicians reacted angrily when a repeat of the August episode aired on Sunday, with Ian Milne, Mid Ulster Sinn Fein MLA, claiming to be “shocked” by the use of subtitles and demanding an apology.

“Following the death of Heaney last year, Devlin was interviewed by media organisations from across the world, including the BBC, and they did not see the need for subtitles,” he told the Mid Ulster Mail.

“This has caused anger in the local community who are insulted by this unnecessary move. It is yet another example of the BBC’s lack of respect for Irish people and culture.”

Peter Weir, Democratic Unionist Party MLA, echoed Milne’s response, telling BBC 5 Live that he also found subtitles “somewhat insulting”.

“I sometimes see Countryfile and I can’t remember another occasion, despite the wide range of accents you hear in the United Kingdom, that I saw somebody subtitled,” he said. “Somebody at the BBC has acted in a slightly patronising and unnecessary way.”

A spokesperson for Countryfile has insisted that “no offence was intended” in the use of subtitles.

“We wanted as wide an audience as possible to appreciate Barney Devlin’s evocative memories of blacksmithing and of Seamus Heaney,” a statement read. “We discussed with Mr Devlin using subtitles and he was happy for this to happen.”

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