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'I Love Larne' BBC documentary has rekindled Larne's pride: council

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Scenes from I Love Larne

Scenes from I Love Larne

Geraldine McGahey, chief executive of Larne Borough Council, in True North: I Love Larne

Geraldine McGahey, chief executive of Larne Borough Council, in True North: I Love Larne

BBC Northern Ireland

Scenes from I Love Larne

Scenes from I Love Larne

Scenes from I Love Larne

Scenes from I Love Larne

Scenes from I Love Larne

Councillors have expressed their unanimous "deep hurt and disappointment" over a controversial TV documentary about Larne - but while it sparked outrage, they also say it has united the town.

Such was the outcry after the BBC's True North: I Love Larne documentary that a special meeting was called in the town last night to discuss concerns about the programme.

The special council meeting lasted almost two hours, and was initially closed to the media and public.

Only one member of the public turned up last night, and left before the council chamber doors were thrown open.

The waiting Press was eventually let in to the chamber, where they were read a statement by the mayor, Martin Wilson.

The SDLP councillor said: "At a special meeting of Larne Borough Council tonight to review the issues surrounding the public response to the BBC True North programme I Love Larne, members unanimously expressed their deep hurt and disappointment at the negative impact the programme has had on the community they serve.

"The council members recognise the unprecedented focus across the media and are committed to harnessing a benefit for Larne and its citizens going forward.

"The council acknowledged that the programme has united young and old and has demonstrated an intensity of community pride in Larne, both civic and business.

"This pride in the borough underpins the determination and confidence in the council in its entirety in taking up the challenge to promote the true picture of Larne."

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph after the meeting, Mr Wilson said he would be taking the BBC up on its offer of a meeting with the broadcaster.

Among the issues raised over the programme were accusations of "selective editing".

Larne council chief executive Geraldine McGahey told previously of her concerns about how her own views were put across in the final cut of the BBC NI documentary.

Last night Ms McGahey did not speak while the media were present.

And when approached by the Belfast Telegraph afterwards she declined to comment.

During the meeting several councillors talked passionately of how the "PR disaster" about their home town had brought the people together.

DUP councillor Drew Niblock said: "It was akin to someone attacking your family.

"It was a PR disaster and it was an attack on our town.

"It has brought the community together young and old.

"Hopefully we can turn this PR disaster in to a positive."

UUP councillor Roy Beggs said: "We have never had an issue that brought the community all together like this programme."

The council will now review its PR protocols and a committee has been formed to deal with a strategy in promoting Larne, which will seek to harness the wider community in that endeavour.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Wilson said: "We will now seek to harness the energy that has been created by the negative outfall of this programme to make sure there is positive work done."

Background

Scheduled as a depiction of the town's quest to overcome economic hardships - viewers felt BBC's True North: I Love Larne, which aired on Monday past, painted an unfair picture with claims that the town was going under and had nothing to offer. There was anger with thousands signing an online petition calling for an apology from the BBC. The man behind the film was producer Guy King, who is himself from Larne. Speaking previously, he said he was "gutted" by the negative response to the programme.

Belfast Telegraph