THE FIRST openly gay member of the Northern Ireland Assembly has criticised the BBC’s decision to play different versions of The Pogues’ Fairytale of New York across its stations.
It was announced last month that BBC Radio 1 would play a censored version of the festive favourite amid concerns the original version’s lyrics might offend listeners.
"We know the song is considered a Christmas classic and we will continue to play it this year, with our radio stations choosing the version of the song most relevant for their audience,” the BBC said.
The decision drew criticism from the song’s co-writer Shane MacGowan, who branded the decision “ridiculous”. Fellow musician Nick Cave, meanwhile, accused the BBC of “mutilating an artefact of immense cultural value”.
Now figures from the world of politics have waded into the debate.
South Antrim Alliance MLA John Blair, who is gay, told the Belfast Telegraph that the decision to censor the song was “nonsense”.
Blair made history in 2018 after becoming Northern Ireland’s first openly gay MLA, replacing ex-justice minister David Ford following his retirement.
He expressed surprise at the level of controversy surrounding the song, given that it was released all the way back in 1987.
"I really was surprised there was a controversy when this song has been around for so long," he told the Belfast Telegraph.
"I would add to that it has been around for so long without controversy previously.”
He also dismissed the idea that the original lyrics might cause offence.
"We need to understand the difference between hate speech and freedom of speech and I don't think there's anything in the song that is a direct attack on anyone or is perceived as such.
"I was surprised at the controversy and I was even more surprised that BBC centrally are going to differentiate between age groups in relation to a song."
Despite the backlash, the BBC has stood by the decision.
In a statement issued to Metro, a spokesperson for the broadcaster said: "We are aware that young audiences are particularly sensitive to derogatory terms for gender and sexuality, and after considering this carefully, Radio 1 has decided to play a full version featuring Kirsty MacColl singing alternative lyrics, provided by the record label."