Northern Ireland

SDLP says no to Stephen Nolan Show until after meeting with BBC bosses

BBC presenter Stephen Nolan
BBC presenter Stephen Nolan

The SDLP will not appear on the Stephen Nolan Show until BBC bosses assure it that its representatives will be “treated properly”, leader Colum Eastwood has said.

The Radio Ulster morning show has been an effective no-go area for nationalist elected representatives for more than three weeks since SDLP MLA Matthew O’Toole was cut off by the host.

Sinn Féin is believed to have been boycotting the programme for years.

Mr O’Toole’s March 3 contribution was halted during a discussion about comments by Loyalist Communities Council spokesman David Campbell.

SDLP MLA Matthew O'Toole. Picture by Hugh Russell
SDLP MLA Matthew O'Toole. Picture by Hugh Russell

SDLP representatives will meet BBC NI management to discuss the matter on April 3.

Mr Eastwood told The Irish News: “We’ll go through that process but frankly we’re not going to be treated like that and I think our political representatives need to be treated properly when they’re on a broadcast programme.”

He said he would decide after the meeting whether party representatives would take part in the programme.

“I’m not into boycotts – I go on every programme and always have,” he said.

In a statement the BBC said:  "We meet elected representatives on a regular basis about different aspects of the BBC’s work and services. And we welcome this engagement.

"We concluded an interview with Matthew O’Toole MLA on 3 March because of a potential legal jeopardy. We explained this at the time and subsequently and were in almost immediate contact with Matthew O’Toole and his office to explain the reason for our decision and the limited protection available to the BBC under a ‘live broadcast defence’. Our obvious preference would have been for the interview to continue, or for it to have resumed with an agreed understanding of its legal parameters."