Belfast Telegraph

BBC under fire after comedian Tiernan targets Arlene Foster on radio show

By Claire O'Boyle

The BBC has come under fire for booking controversial comedian Tommy Tiernan to star in one of its radio shows - only for the funnyman to make Arlene Foster the butt of an offensive gag live on air.

The popular Irish comic - who has provoked uproar in the past with jokes about Jews, drug users and even people with Down's syndrome - made his latest gaff on Tuesday during an appearance on Mark Patterson's Radio Foyle show.

Speaking about his "interest" in the DUP leader, he said: "If she wasn't in politics I can see her working single-handedly on a tiny little farm in south Fermanagh driving cattle up some country lane."

Then, apparently imitating Mrs Foster, he said: "Go on you pups, you fenian b******* ye, go up you fenian... Friesian Arlene, they are called Friesian Arlene. I'll call them what I want."

After the interview, host Patterson apologised for any offence caused, adding: "Tommy is, I suppose that kind of talent in terms of what he does."

DUP MP Gregory Campbell said that despite being someone who was "fairly well known" as engaging in humour and satire, he thought the nature of some of the language appeared to be "excessive".

Mr Campbell said: "His humour can be quite lively if it is delivered and taken in the spirit it is intended it to be, but the language used around Arlene Foster appears to be almost deliberately provocative to try to engender some sort of outrage.

"I hope people won't rise to it in terms of him wanting a massive headline to try and sell more tickets."

The BBC apologised and said the language used was "clearly inappropriate".

The broadcaster has since removed the section of the programme from its catch-up services.

A spokesman added: "The language used by our guest was clearly inappropriate.

"We unreservedly apologise for its use and any offence caused. This section of the programme has been removed for our catch up services."

Tiernan's 'Arlene' gag is the latest in a series of his jokes to cause offence.

His most controversial was delivered at the Electric Picnic festival in 2009 when he shocked the audience by ranting: "These Jews, these f****** Jew c**** come up to me.

"F****** Christ-killing b*******. F****** six million?

"I would have got 10 or 12 million out of that. No f****** problem! F*** them."

However, the comedian released a statement insisting he had not meant to cause offence and that his words had been taken out of context.

In 2007, families complained about a routine discussing people with Down's syndrome - although it later emerged Tiernan had run a marathon in support of the charity Down Syndrome Ireland.

The following year, an appearance on RTE's The Late Late Show prompted a number of complaints about jokes involving a methadone user, eastern European immigrant accents, buying a motorbike from an injured biker, and a film idea about gay Traveller spacemen seeking a cure for homosexuality.

Eight complaints were upheld.

The Broadcasting Complaints Commission also criticised the show's host Pat Kenny for egging his guest on.

Asked about the Beeb's level of cultural balance when it comes to comedians a spokesperson said: "We seek to reflect community life in all its different aspects and diversity.

"Our range of programming involves people from different backgrounds and seeks to engage all audiences.

"Everything that we do is informed by the BBC's Editorial Guidelines and we also take account of viewer and listener feedback.

"We try to avoid mistakes and will always rectify them quickly when they occur. This is what happened in relation to unexpected (and unacceptable) comments made on-air during a live afternoon broadcast."

Tommy Tiernan's management did not respond to a request for comment.

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