DUP takes legal action against BBC over exclusion from debate

Robinson says fact voters outside NI cannot vote for party doesn’t render its views irrelevant

The DUP will seek a judicial review of a decision by the BBC to exclude it from a party leaders’ debate ahead of the general election. The DUP leader and Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson said the broadcaster’s decision was “unlawful and irrational”. Photograph:  Brian Lawless/PA Wire.

The DUP will seek a judicial review of a decision by the BBC to exclude it from a party leaders’ debate ahead of the general election. The DUP leader and Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson said the broadcaster’s decision was “unlawful and irrational”. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire.

 

The Democratic Unionist Party has begun legal proceedings against the BBC over its refusal to include it in a TV party leaders’ debate in the United Kingdom in the run-up to the May general election.

Saying that the DUP will seek a judicial review, the DUP leader and Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson said the broadcaster’s decision was “unlawful and irrational” and breached its duty of impartiality.

The DUP has sought a meeting next week “as a matter of urgency”, though, so far, the BBC has been insistent that it will not be added as the eighth party expected to take part in one round of the debate series.

The Conservatives, the Green Party and the UK Independence Party will all field candidates in the North and, although they “unlikely to win any seats” they could influence the result in “a number of closely fought seats”, the DUP complained

In a letter, it said: “The fact that UK residents outside NI cannot vote for the DUP does not render its views irrelevant to those people. This is particularly the case where it is distinctly possible, if not likely, that DUP will hold the balance of power in Westminster.”

Viewers elsewhere in the UK “should be informed of this and have an opportunity to see the party that might hold the balance of power perform on the national stage, in debate with national leaders”.

The broadcaster appears to be making contradictory arguments, the DUP said, given the BBC says that including the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru from Wales “bolsters” the democratic value of the debates.

However, it has failed to explain how the inclusion of “one or more Northern Ireland parties will have the opposite effect and somehow diminish that value. The BBC’s position in this respect is discriminatory and incapable of objective justification.”