Wednesday, 26 October 2011

BBC pundit and former GAA star 'praises' IRA leader

Last week the front page story in the Sunday Life carried the headline 'BBC STAR IRA ROW - GAA pundit says sorry for praising Provo chief'.  The story then continued over two pages in the newspaper.

Jarlath Burns is a school teacher, a former Armagh GAA captain, and now a BBC sports pundit.  Recently he appeared at a Sinn Fein rally in Dublin at which a number of celebrities endorsed Martin McGuinness in his campaign for president of the Irish Republic.  It seems that theer were many celebrities at the event but it was Burns who got the publicity.  His participation, his support for McGuinness and his comments about an IRA commander have certainly attracted attention.

During his speech at the rally, Jarlath Burns praised Peter John Caraher, a former neighbour, who died on 10 October.  He boasted that, 'When the British thought that they ruled South Armagh ... South Armagh was being ruled from Peter John Caraher's house.'

Caraher was the IRA commander in South Armagh and is believed to have been one of the IRA gunmen involved in the Kingsmills massacre.

When he was challenged by the newspaper about his comments, Burns described himself as a 'peace-loving person' and said, 'I'd be offended if someone took a comment at a rally about a neighbour of mine as any way whatsoever supporting violence or suporting people being killed.  That was unscripted.  I probably should have scripted it a wee bit better and shown a bit more sensitivity, but the point I was making was Peter John Caraher was someone who went the same journey as Martin McGuinness.'

He was also asked about the allegation, made under parliamentary privilege in 2007, that Caraher had sanctioned the murder of Paul Quinn by IRA men in South Armagh.  In response to this Jarlath Burns replied, 'I don't know about that, the death of Paul Quinn.'

'I fully and 100 percent understand (that people may be upset at the remarks) and I would never seek to offend anybody with what I say or what I do.'

However, many people will be surprised at the appearance of a BBC sports commentator at an election rally for a Sinn Fein leader. 

Even more will be surprised that a BBC sports commentator freely commends a former IRA commander, who 'ruled' what is known as 'Bandit country'.  Burns says that the comments were unscripted but is that not the sort of situation in which an individual speaks from the heart?

Since then Lord Morrow has called for strong action by the BBC against their commentator and we
must wait to see the response of the BBC.

The Sunday Life report also recalled that Burns 'has come under fire before for making political comments'.  Last year he wrongly accused me of 'bigoted political chicanery' in relation to planning permission for the expansion of a GAA club.  As the paper noted, 'McCausland's then Culture and Sport ministry had not been responsible for dealing with the planning application.'  That is absolutely right and I dealt with that matter in this blog on 10 March 2010.  I had no connection at all with the decision but his false accusation provided another insight into the man's mindset.

The Dublin rally is not, of course, the first appearance by Jarlath Burns on a Sinn Fein platform.  Last year he was one of the speakers at a Sinn Fein conference in London and that was the occasion on which he made the false accusation.

It seems that whenever he makes his, now annual, appearance at a Sinn Fein event, he manages to make a newsworthy statement!  Yes I think the BBC has some thinking to do.


  1. BBC NI, perhaps, ought to be turning their Spotlight on their employee, Mr Burns, and make the general public more aware of what he does outside their premises.

  2. So why did the BBC not run this report???

    Do they not run bad news stories against the gaa or their terrorist supporting employees???

    When is the controller of the BBC going up to Stormont to answer some pertinent questions.


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