Belfast Telegraph

Jeremy Paxman's sneering views on Northern Ireland may be shared by many in rest of UK

By Noel McAdam

The tone is tongue-in-cheek, with that brazen, caustic wit that Jeremy Paxman has made his trademark.

For the most part his article is what we like to call "a joke with a jag", but underneath his surface attempt at humour Paxman taps into an attitude towards Northern Ireland that may be growing in the rest of the UK.

It is that far too much public money is lavished on this corner of the Union, years after the peace agreements and devolution are supposed to have bedded down.

That criticism is only likely to increase if, as is widely expected, Chancellor George Osborne confirms the handover of corporation tax powers to our Executive in his Autumn Statement today.

Of course, the figures underpinning this jaded view gaining currency across the water are irrefutable. We in Northern Ireland currently enjoy the UK's highest per capita level of public spending, at £10,876, compared to £10,151 for the average Scot, £9,707 in Wales, and England, the lowest, on £8,528.

But Mr Paxman is well off the mark when he talks of the Government having "thrown in the towel" on jobs in favour of leisure - it sounds like a typical Tory characterisation, which is unworthy of him.

From reading the article it is obvious Jeremy enjoyed his trip here, but there is a sneering side to the piece he produced for one of the most influential of national magazines, which is more revelatory than he perhaps intended.

It is one thing if we laugh at ourselves - who hasn't made the quip about Belfast having more than four quarters? But it is entirely different when the jibes come from an outsider, even someone who spent a considerable time living here.

That, in fact, just makes it worse, because Paxman launched his successful career here at the height of the Troubles and should understand more than most about what makes us tick.

Paxman's quip that the iceberg that struck the Titanic did Belfast a huge favour "whatever the loss of life" is just in poor taste.

And it's followed by the suggestion that the name Titanic Quarter should become Iceberg Quarter, which doesn't even make sense.

Pack it in, Paxo.

Belfast Telegraph

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