Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 2 September 2014

Bateman brings beeb to book over report

Author launches tirade on BBC after criticism of his albino heroine

Colin Bateman

Award-winning author Colin Bateman has launched an expletive-fuelled tirade against politically-correct BBC chiefs for carrying out a "witch-hunt" against him.

In a bizarre episode, which could be straight off the pages of one of the Ulsterman's own comic novels, the Beeb blasted Bateman for being offensive to albinos.

Now Bangor-born Bateman — the creator of the hit Belfast telly detective show Murphy's Law — has responded by telling them to, "Get a f****** life!"

The popular writer became incensed after BBC Northern Ireland's Newsline programme sent reporter Nicola Weir along to a Ballymena school to investigate why kids were allegedly angry at his depiction of the albino heroine Mo in his children's book trilogy, Reservoir Pups.

One of the pupils from Ballymena's St Patrick's College told Weir: "Being a writer of children books, he [Bateman] has a responsibility to help children in a good way to make people more tolerant of others' disabilities."

Other children chipped in with mumbled criticisms and were even pictured writing a letter to Bateman. As Weir explained: "The pupils of St Patrick's College are so unhappy at the words used to describe Mo that they've put their thoughts down in writing to the author."

Maybe the BBC didn't pay for the postage stamp, however, because Bateman insists he never received it — and he believes the segment had far more to do with the BBC's own political agenda than the pupils' actual beliefs.

He has now bashed the Beeb on his blog, accusing Newsline of attempting to "censor a writer's freedom of speech."

Bateman — who told the BBC in a statement that it was guilty of "political correctness gone mad" — added: "Mo is an albino. She is funny, clever, adventurous, brave, dynamic, romantic. She just happens to be an albino.

"If I was an albino, I'd want posters of Mo on my wall. Over about 800 pages of the three novels, she's a star.

"Of course people think she looks a bit odd. She does. Of course people occasionally comment on it, either to her or amongst themselves. Why wouldn't they?

"Instead of celebrating the fact that an albino features as a heroine — as opposed say to something like The Da Vinci Code, where the albino is a crazy serial killer — they have taken what they perceive to be a few negative comments and launched a witch-hunt, which includes recruiting the Albinism Fellowship and the RNIB [Royal National Institute of Blind People].

"BBC Reporter Nicola Weir presented the report — stating that both the pupils and the RNIB had written letters of complaint to me [they haven't] and basically accusing me of discriminating against albinos and making their life hell.

"Well I say, get a f****** life!

"I'm more than happy to defend myself in a sensible discussion.

"But I object to is this kind of paranoid witch-hunt where people relentlessly search for the negative instead of the positive.

"What I [also] object to is an attempt to censor a writer's freedom of speech, where he has to think in future whether it's worth the risk to describe someone as an albino, as ginger-haired, as black, as Chinese, as Gemini, in case it offends them.

"If I see someone coming along the street with one arm, I want the right to say he has one arm. If a bank robber is an Apache, I want to be able to say he's an Apache without getting a tomahawk in the brain from the f****** political correctness police.

"And I object to a BBC producer deciding that, because someone happens to read a FIVE-YEAR-OLD book and disagrees with it, that is somehow NEWS and suitable for coverage on a flagship news programme," he said.

Bateman (46), who attended Bangor Grammar School and later won a scholarship to Oxford University, ended his tirade: "I have recently been reading William Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice and object to his depiction of Jews — I expect the TV crew to arrive any moment to film a report on it!"

Fellow Northern Irish author Stuart Neville, who has released his debut novel The Ghosts of Belfast, sprang to Bateman's defence.

"The BBC must miss having bombs and kneecappings to report," he said.

Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for the Albinism Fellowship was far more charitable to Bateman, saying: "Mo is a very likable and believable character.

"The only problem was the way the author portrayed her. He could possibly have done more research on the condition before writing about this character."

slnews@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

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