BBC apologises for broadcasting anti-Irish joke

By on August 21, 2014

> on March 2, 2010 in London, England.

THE BBC has apologised for broadcasting an anti-Irish joke on its flagship Scottish news programme.

One family told The Irish Post they were “gobsmacked” to hear the slur as they sat down to watch the news on Tuesday evening.

“I thought it was absolutely disgusting to see that your own national broadcaster would allow this to happen,” said Brendán MacFarlane, who saw the joke alongside his family in their Fife home.

The 20-year-old student added: “To see comments like that about your own ethnic group on the news is so disheartening.”

The joke was broadcast on BBC1’s Reporting Scotland news show during a pre-recorded segment about the ‘funniest joke’ at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

It involved a reporter asking members of the public about what they find funny.

Among the contributions broadcast: “Two Irish guys look in the mirror. One goes: ‘I know that guy.’ The other one goes: ‘I know you do, it’s me you stupid guy.’”

Mr MacFarlane said: “I don’t think any other ethnic group in Scotland would be allowed to be subjected to that type of so-called joke on TV.

“In Scotland people are very careful with what they say about different ethnic groups, but sometimes it seems okay to say things about the Irish because it seems acceptable.”

Responding to the complaint, the BBC apologised for broadcasting the joke.

“During a series of vox-pops a member of the public told a joke which may have offended some viewers. We apologise if any offence was caused,” a spokesperson for the corporation said.

Mr MacFarlane’s father, Ben, has complained to Ofcom, the media watchdog, which is assessing whether to launch an investigation.

“To think that a journalist recorded that and then went back to the editor’s studio and they said ‘that is suitable for inclusion’ is incredible. What kind of decision-making process is that?” he told The Irish Post.

“I am a solicitor in local government and if I were to step out of my office and make that comment about any other race I would be on a warning and potentially sacked.”

Niall O Sullivan

About Niall O Sullivan

Niall O’Sullivan is a reporter at The Irish Post. You can follow him on @Niall_IrishPost on Twitter


  1. John Conroy

    August 22, 2014 at 10:41 am

    Its only a joke for god sake..Get a grip

    • Carol

      August 22, 2014 at 5:06 pm

      That is the deepest cut: that these little jokes & asides & allusions are slipped into everyday life & the most prosaic conversations. Everyone hears them, many recognize that they are wrong & people seem to think,’Ah well, it’s the Irish, they’re used to it.’ Too right.

      I remember hearing these veiled joke-y remarks for as long as I can remember, (that’s a long time,) including good old ‘Fawlty Towers,’ with the bent Irish building contractor & the good one, English. I never made it through an entire episode of ‘Father Ted,’ just not my speed at all.

      Thanks for the article, C

  2. Pingback: So does whingeing about a trivial joke do anything to engender respect…BBC apologises about an Irish joke aired in a report about the Edinburgh fringe | Melon Farmers Blog

  3. Patrick McAleer

    August 22, 2014 at 8:41 pm

    Maith thu a Brendan . Great to see people standing up to the belittling of our people.

  4. Alan white

    August 23, 2014 at 12:27 am

    IT’S. A. JOKE

  5. buffythe cat

    August 25, 2014 at 1:04 pm

    Well said Brendan.

    For all those apologists who claim that it’s ”only a joke”
    . . .GET EDUCATED!!
    Racists, bigots and peddlers of hate always use the ”joke” as a back door way in to get people to accept the stereotype before turning the”joke” into something a little more serious.
    The Nazies did it with the Jews as have other reactionaries all over the world.

    The BBC are an utter disgrace and a full scale investigation should be launched forthwith; its rife with anti Irish bigots and everyone knows it.

  6. Dale

    September 1, 2014 at 9:15 am

    I am British and grew up in the 60′s and 70′s where even student rag mags had these jokes. I hope and think we Brits have matured in our opinions of our Irish cousins and that we now mutually respect each other these day. I consider we are lucky to have you as neighbours. What was said may only be just a joke but sad enough that someone thinks it’s worth a cheap laugh but rather pathetic that someone else thinks it’s worth broadcasting. Apologies on behalf of most of us on this side of the water.

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