Belfast Telegraph

Titanic victim's relative hits out at 'insensitive, insulting' Jeremy Paxman

By Joanne Sweeney

The great-granddaughter of a Belfast man who perished in the Titanic sinking has said she is "appalled" by broadcaster Jeremy Paxman's comments on the tragedy.

Susie Millar also condemned the leading BBC television presenter as "extremely insensitive and insulting" to the relatives of those who were lost and "the skilled men of Harland and Wolff".

However, it was confirmed yesterday that no public money was spent to cover the costs of Mr Paxman's recent trip to Belfast, after which he wrote that the iceberg which sunk the Titanic had done Belfast "a huge favour".

The University Challenge presenter wrote a column in the Spectator after he was in Belfast as the chief guest of the NI Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

He wrote: "Whatever the loss of life, that iceberg did the city a huge favour. They should call it the 'Iceberg Quarter'."

While largely tongue-in-cheek in tone, his comments rankled with many people.

The Titanic sank on April 15, 1912 on its maiden voyage to New York, with the loss of 1,517 souls.

Ms Millar, whose great-grandfather Thomas Millar worked on the construction of the boat and then died as a passenger, said that Mr Paxman needed to remember that so many lives were lost.

She said: "It is extremely insensitive and insulting to the relatives of those who were lost and to the skilled men of Harland and Wolff shipyard who built Titanic, to make such a 'joke'.

"Mr Paxman seems to have failed to grasp that Titanic is an internationally known story."

She added: "I am appalled at Mr Paxman's comments. Clearly, he wishes to retain his reputation for controversy.

"He is entitled to his opinions about Belfast's economic regeneration, but should not be reduced to making jokes about a devastating maritime disaster."

Lagan Valley MP and historian Jeffrey Donaldson stressed that Belfast was proud of its association with the Titanic.

The DUP MLA added: "It's not that we exploit that tragedy but the Titanic centre actually deals with the matter very sensitively.

"It's not the sinking of the Titanic that marks it out, but the fact that it was built in Belfast is the important thing."

Mr Paxman was unavailable for comment.

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