Northern Ireland news

BBC says it did not seek to cause offence after airing Famine Song

Bellshill Protestant Boys filmed by the BBC playing the Famine Song in Belfast during the Twelfth
Connla Young

THE BBC has said it "would not seek to offend" viewers after it broadcast the anti-Irish Famine Song during its coverage of the Twelfth.

The tune appears to have been played by Scottish flute band Bellshill Protestant Boys as the Orange Order’s Twelfth Belfast parade made its way through the city centre last Thursday.

Footage of the tune being played was later broadcast twice during the BBC’s evening round up programme broadcast.

During one clip the offensive tune can be clearly heard for around 30 seconds.

The Famine Song, which contains anti-Irish lyrics and is played to the air of the Beach Boys hit Sloop John B, caused controversy in 2012 when Shankill Road-based band Young Conway Volunteers was filmed walking in circles while playing it outside St Patrick’s Church in north Belfast.

In 2009 appeal court judges in Scotland upheld a conviction against a Rangers fan who was prosecuted for singing the Famine Song.

The court was told the song was "racist" and "displays malice and ill-will towards people of Irish descent living in Scotland".

In a statement the BBC said: “A melody line played on flutes can briefly be heard for a matter of seconds, amongst a cacophony of other band performances, street noise and commentary as the parade made its way down Bedford Street

“The BBC did not feature any performance beyond any other in the parade. Our coverage was an accurate reflection of the event. The BBC would not seek to offend any of our viewers.”

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Northern Ireland news