Television networks respond to Irish viewer anger
US television network ABC was this week forced to apologise live on air for branding the victims of Bloody Sunday as ‘IRA protesters’ in a recent news report.
The move followed a barrage of complaints to the US television network from both Irish people in Ireland and in the USA, as well as from lawyers acting for some of the Bloody Sunday families.
Fourteen innocent civilians died on January 30, 1972, when British troops opened fire on a civil rights demonstration in Derry. They were marching to oppose the use of internment without trial against republicans and nationalists.
Earlier this month, during a report about Martin McGuinness’ handshake with the British monarch Elizabeth Windsor, ABC reporter Nick Schifrin spoke of the Deputy First Minister’s past as an IRA leader, then stated: “The IRA’s clashes with Protestants often turned violent. In 1972, British troops killed _IRA protesters_ at what became known as Bloody Sunday.”
The reference was described as a “disgrace” and an “insult” by local campaigners who fought for years to clear their loved ones names, and by their legal teams - all of whom called for an immediate apology from ABC News.
Earlier this week, Good Morning America’s main anchorman broadcast a clarification about the Bloody Sunday gaffe on their flagship news programme, stating: “We regret the error”.
Good Morning America’s anchorman said in their ‘clarification’: “After the broadcast we were contacted by lawyers for demonstrators and families of demonstrators who were injured or killed by British forces on what’s known as Bloody Sunday in 1972. They objected to our reference to those killed as ‘IRA protestors’. The lawyer said all victims of Bloody Sunday should be referred to as civil rights demonstrators, telling us, and I quote, ‘each of those murdered and wounded was unequivocally declared to be innocent’ by an International Commission of Inquiry, and we regret the error.”
Maura Young, whose brother John was murdered on Bloody Sunday, welcomed the news but said her family were shocked that ABC chose to retract their statement live on-air.
“We were shocked that it was the anchor-man who did it - we presumed we would get a letter of apology from ABC at the most. It shows you how seriously they took our complaints. At least they held their hands up and admitted they were in the wrong.
“We spent ten years in the Guildhall waiting for Lord Saville to say what we all knew - that everyone was innocent - so for one of the world’s biggest TV networks to get it so wrong was totally unacceptable,” Mrs Young added.
In another embarrassing gaffe for a major television network this week, the BBC also apologised after an anti-Irish remark was made by a British sports commentator in the lead up to its coverage of the London Olympics.
Former Olympian Daley Thompson commented that a tattooist who misspelled the word Olympics ‘must have been Irish’.
Thompson made his remark during Thursday’s One Show after he was shown a picture of the torch bearer who had _Oylmpic_ tattooed on her arm -- at which point the decathlon gold-medalist said the tattooist must have been Irish.
Presenter Matt Baker corrected Thompson, saying the tattoo had happened in the United States. A second presenter repeated the apology at the end of the show.