Belfast Telegraph

Row erupts over BBC's subtitling of Derry blacksmith (96) who inspired Heaney

By Michelle Smyth

A 96-year-old blacksmith is at the centre of a row after the BBC used subtitles as he was speaking.

Barney Devlin from Hillhead, near Bellaghy in Co Londonderry, was the inspiration for late Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney's famous poem The Forge.

On Sunday, Mr Devlin appeared on a Countryfile episode focused on crafts.

But the appearance of subtitles on the screen as he spoke has prompted controversy.

Sinn Fein MLA Ian Milne said the move had caused anger in his community and people felt insulted.

He added that the use of subtitles was "another example of the BBC's lack of respect for Irish people and culture."

Mr Milne said he will be writing to the BBC to ask them for an apology.

Other viewers took to Twitter to express their outrage, with one man writing: "Grrr, Countryfile you've made a Northern Irish man angry on a Sunday night.

"Ditch the blooming subtitles for us!"

Another wrote: "Countryfile, the elderly Irish blacksmith really doesn't need subtitles. He's perfectly understandable when your ear is trained in."

A spokeswoman from the BBC said that the use of subtitles was discussed with Mr Devlin and he "was happy for this to happen".

"No offence was intended. We wanted as wide an audience as possible to appreciate Barney Devlin's evocative memories of blacksmithing and of Seamus Heaney," she said.

It's not the first time subtitles have been used when folks from these parts are speaking.

When Ross Kemp filmed an episode of his Extreme World series in Northern Ireland, the Londonderry accent of an Orangeman was subtitled.

And when former Girls Aloud singer Nadine Coyle appeared as a guest judge on an episode of America's Next Top Model, subtitles were added when the Derry woman spoke.

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