Row over BBC report on unionist transfers claims

DUP MP Nigel Dodds.   Picture by Jonathan Porter/
DUP MP Nigel Dodds. Picture by Jonathan Porter/

DUP MP Nigel Dodds has called on the BBC to issue a retraction and an apology for what his party described as ‘false claims’ about DUP transfers in South Belfast.

At issue is the number of DUP transfers that went to the Ulster Unionist Party in the South Belfast constituency, where the Green Party’s Claire Bailey was elected to the fifth seat, just ahead of the UUP’s candidate Michael Henderson.

On the BBC show ‘The View’ on Thursday, the presenter – speaking to Jeffrey Donaldson – said: “DUP voters didn’t transfer to the Ulster Unionist candidate, and if they’d done that the fifth MLA in South Belfast would be Michael Henderson of the Ulster Unionist Party not Claire Bailey of the Green Party.”

He went on to say, with emphasis: “That is a fact.”

Responding on Friday, DUP MP Nigel Dodds said this was “an inaccurate account concerning DUP transfers in South Belfast”.

He said: “When DUP votes were transferred in South Belfast, 3,939 went to the second DUP candidate, 494 to the UUP and only 77 to Greens.

“Over six times as many transfers went to the UUP as went to the Greens.”

He went on to add: “The BBC spent the entire election campaign claiming DUP warnings were scare stories. They weren’t. They used a range of supposed ‘commentators’ who were sympathetic to every party but the DUP.

“In the aftermath, the BBC website misrepresented Arlene Foster’s use of a crocodile analogy and now this gross inaccuracy.

“Instead of reflecting on their biased coverage it appears the BBC and its presenters are doubling down on their anti-DUP attacks.”

Responding to Mr Dodds, the BBC said: “Accurate and impartial journalism is what we provide.

“We seek to avoid mistakes and will always correct them if they occur. In this instance, the presenter was referring to the South Belfast count process as a whole.

“These numbers suggest that at a critical stage of the count process, had Michael Henderson picked up sufficient DUP transfers, he might have won the fifth seat.

“Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP who was a guest on the programme also engaged in a discussion with the presenter and made the point, regarding South Belfast, that not every DUP voter had followed the party’s advice to transfer to unionist parties.

“We believe our coverage of the recent Assembly election has been fair and balanced to all parties.”