BBC should have done more on Lord Molyneaux’s death

Lord Molyneaux on his 90th Birthday in 2010. 'Photo: Brian Little
Lord Molyneaux on his 90th Birthday in 2010. 'Photo: Brian Little

The late Lord Molyneaux of Killead was a figure of stature in both local and national politics over a period of three decades or more.

He was leader of the Ulster Unionist party in the Commons for over twenty years and leader of the party as a whole for fifteen years.

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He was a member of the Privy Council for the last three decades of his life and was close to two successive Prime Ministers.

During his period as leader his party was not only the largest in Northern Ireland but was also of sufficient size to exert crucial influence in the Commons both in the late 1970s and the early 1990s.

He embodied a strand of unionist — neither strident nor sectarian — that is more representative than some commentators would like to admit.

Recognition of the late Lord Molyneaux’s importance in the public life of Ulster need not depend on complete agreement with everything he said or did; his role as a figure of consequence can and should be taken as a matter of objective fact.

His death was marked by lengthy obituaries in the main national newspapers — The Guardian as well as The Times and The Daily Telegraph.

The local press also covered his career at length.

It is disappointing therefore to note how scanty and inadequate the coverage of his death last Monday was on the local BBC. By my calculations (more or less accurate, I think) his career was given no more than three minutes on the television news in the early evening and about the same on the later television bulletin.

Coverage on the radio was little better: apart from the reference in the headlines, he received about nine minutes on Evening Extra and just over four minutes the next day on Good Morning Ulster.

Most of the coverage was taken up by interviews with local press commentators; the opportunity for an extended interview either with one or other of his senior party colleagues or with Sir John Major was missed. This very poor response contrasts with the saturation coverage of the late Lord Bannside’s death last year. Lord Bannside’s memorial service was televised live.

Perhaps the BBC could make up for its scanty coverage of Lord Molyneaux’s death by televising his memorial service, if and when one is held.

In the meantime it would be interesting to hear from the local BBC why Lord Molyneaux’s death was not covered more adequately.

C.D.C. Armstrong

Belfast