Letter: BBC ban ensures no publicity for the IRA

Sir: John Birt argues ('Let us hear their apologies', 19 October) that Sinn Fein should be allowed to speak out on television. In support of his notion, he states:

The important point, though, is . . . (that) broadcast audiences - particularly in Northern Ireland itself - are denied a complete picture of Northern Irish politics . . .

To begin with, the Northern Ireland Notice covers only direct broadcast, and does not restrict the coverage of Sinn Fein activities by professional reporters - after all, that is their job. The ban does not, therefore, prevent the BBC from presenting a complete picture of Northern Irish politics.

Second, Mr Birt does not appear to grasp one of the fundamental reasons for the notice, which is that terrorism needs publicity if it is to be effective. If we give the IRA free publicity, we are playing into their hands. In view of this, I find the headline on Mr Birt's article almost obscene. Without repentance, any 'apology' is meaningless; and repentance implies that the atrocity will not be repeated.

Mr Birt asks Peter Brooke, in the name of liberty, to withdraw the Northern Ireland Notice. Whose liberty? Si l'on veut abolir la peine de mort en ce cas, que messieurs les assassins commencent.

Yours faithfully,


London, WC1

19 October