Fury as BBC calls dead IRA terrorist a ‘veteran’: Bosses apologise to families of Troubles murder victims over blunder during funeral news report
- Relatives of those killed in the troubles were angered by a BBC report yesterday
- Online report called Eamon ‘Peggy’ McCourt – a former IRA member – a ‘veteran’
- Families said it suggested he was a member of a legitimate military organisation
- McCourt, a leading member of the IRA in Londonderry, died aged 62 after reportedly battling Covid-19. He was jailed during the Troubles
McCourt (pictured) a leading member of the IRA in Londonderry, died aged 62 after reportedly battling Covid-19
The BBC apologised to the families of IRA murder victims yesterday after describing a former member of the terror group as a ‘veteran’.
Relatives of those killed in the Troubles were angered by the use of the word in a news report on the funeral of Eamon ‘Peggy’ McCourt, pictured.
The families said the term suggested the former gunman was a member of a legitimate military organisation.
McCourt, a leading member of the IRA in Londonderry, died aged 62 after reportedly battling Covid-19.
He was jailed during the Troubles and is said to have once accidentally shot dead a fellow IRA member.
McCourt was himself shot and seriously wounded by the British Army in 1981.
The BBC used the word ‘veteran’ in an online report about large crowds that caused Covid controversy at McCourt’s burial in Londonderry on Monday.
Police said a ‘significant number of people’ gathered in a manner ‘likely to be in breach’ of virus rules.
The first line of the BBC report read: ‘Police have begun an investigation into potential breaches of Covid-19 regulations at the funeral of an IRA veteran in Londonderry.’ It also used the word ‘veteran’ in a post on Twitter.
Mark Tipper, whose brother Trooper Simon Tipper, 19, was one of four soldiers killed in the 1982 Hyde Park bombing, said the use of the term was ‘beyond belief’.
He said: ‘They have just glorified the IRA with the word veteran. My God, it stinks… it should be “IRA man – terrorist”.’
Pictured: British soldiers in riot gear detain a man during the troubles in Londonderry. The BBC used the word ‘veteran’ in an online report about large crowds that caused Covid controversy at McCourt’s burial in Londonderry on Monday
Tobias Ellwood, chairman of the defence committee and a former captain in the Royal Green Jackets, said: ‘It’s an accolade to be called a veteran. A tribute to serving your country. It should never be used to champion terrorism.’
The BBC apologised and amended the report, using ‘man’ instead of veteran.
In a statement, it said: ‘We used the term “IRA veteran” to describe Eamon McCourt’s long involvement in Irish republicanism… No offence was intended and we regret any misunderstanding or upset that may have been caused.’
Sopel: Chasing a young audience ‘so patronising’
Misguided attempts at winning a younger audience are making the BBC look ‘terribly patronising’, one of its star news presenters says.
North America editor Jon Sopel said the corporation is missing the mark as it tries to compete with streaming services such as Netflix – with its approach running the risk of alienating the young.
In an online talk to students at the Oxford Union, he said: ‘The BBC has been struggling and wondering “how do we reach a younger audience?” and doing all this market research and “do you need young people to do it? and do we talk about young people’s issues?” which seems to me a terribly patronising way of going about it.’
Sopel, 61, said the BBC Sounds podcast he does with Emily Maitlis, Americast, had won over young audiences by not being ‘pompous’ and featuring ‘likeable characters, having a bit of a laugh, who maybe know their subject and can engage’.