BBC says sorry for its Oirish Eastenders


The BBC has apologised for any offence caused by its portrayal of Ireland in Monday night's episode of its soap opera, Eastenders, which was set in and around Dublin. All this week the London-based drama is set in Ireland, as Pauline Fowler, played by Wendy Richards, visits her long-lost half-sister.

After scenes depicting cows, sheep and donkeys wandering around a street, a menacing drunk, an unhelpful hotelier and resentful locals, many viewers here were offended at the way Ireland and its people were portrayed.

The BBC received "a number of calls", according to a spokeswoman for the programme. RTE's public relations office received six calls, although it does not screen the programme. Some of the calls were from British people, a spokeswoman said.

Yesterday morning, the controversy was aired on Morning Ireland, where John Boland, the Irish Independent television reviewer, pointed out how bad the programme became when it left its London location.

There were also many calls to phone-in programmes, including The Pat Kenny Show, with listeners ringing in to protest.

The BBC issued a statement saying: "We are sorry if we have offended Irish people and we had no wish to misrepresent them."

Pauline did track down her half-sister, who lives in a house full of rowdy children and surly family members. She is married to a drunk, who turned up earlier pouring drink all over Pauline.

A BBC source suggested that the characters had now been introduced and would be given "context" over the rest of the week. Pauline comes from a "multifaceted family background", said the source, with some understatement. The programmes were filmed in Ireland about two months ago.