Belfast Telegraph

Private Eye red-faced over fake letter from ‘A Maskey’

By Noel McAdam

It's the satirical magazine that likes to point the finger and poke fun at politicians.

But now the tables have been turned on Private Eye over a fake letter from Northern Ireland.

Editor Ian Hislop has admitted being fooled by the spoof letter about Martin McGuinness’s historic handshake with the Queen.

For the missive, which appears in the latest issue, claims to have been written by a Mr ‘A Maskey’ of Belfast. The letter describes McGuinness as “a loyal British citizen” and says that he has “proven himself” as such “over many years”.

Senior Sinn Fein Assembly Member Alex Maskey (right) is adamant that he is not the author. And the investigative and satirical publication has confessed it did not check the letter had been sent from the former Belfast Lord Mayor.

Mr Hislop, best known for TV’s current affairs satirical panel show Have I Got News For You, told the Belfast Telegraph: “It looks like we have been had.”

He said they simply did not recognise Mr Maskey, a former Assembly chief whip and currently chair of Stormont’s social development committee. Mr Maskey — who described the letter as an “absolute spoof” — said: “I would not like anyone to think it had come from me.

“And while that may be apparent to readers on this side of the Irish Sea, it may not be so clear to the magazine’s main readership.

“I have never really read Private Eye, but given its reputation I would have expected it would check on the veracity of the letter.

“There is no other ‘A Maskey’ in Belfast to my knowledge, and they obviously didn’t check.”

The letter said that the front page of the previous edition, which portrayed the Queen meeting the Deputy First Minister dressed in a full bomb disposal outfit, was “most unfair”.

“After all, Martin has proven himself over many years to be a loyal British citizen,” it adds.

“Let’s not forget that he was instrumental in destroying the IRA and its weapons.

“He was also a big supporter of his native city, Derry, becoming the 2013 UK City of Culture and has been foremost on condemning republicans who continue to attack British forces, urging people to give information to the British authorities about these attacks,” the letter’s author added.

Mr Maskey said that he might now seek to have a clarification printed in the London-based magazine over the error.

Mr Hislop added: “If he wants to make contact with us, that is fine.

“We didn’t recognise the name, I am afraid.

“We can only put our hands up, and if Mr Maskey would want to write to us we would certainly publish his letter,” Mr Hislop added.

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