I listen regularly to the Any Questions programme on Friday evenings on Radio Four BBC, presented by Jonathan Dimbleby, and its derivative, Any Answers, broadcast after its repeat on Saturday afternoon in which listeners ring in to participate with comments. And, I admit, I myself have been allowed on a few occasions to express my opinions on the questions discussed.
On Friday 6th June I particularly listened expectantly as it was coming frome Larne in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, because I was, of course, born in Belfast on 26 April 1919. Incidentally, Larne is in Ian Paisley's constituency.
As I anticipated, two questions were posed from the audience relating to Northern Ireland. One was about the suspension for the second time of the Assembly elections. the other concerned the Saville Inquiry into the Bloody Sunday incident in Derry in 1972.
These two occupied the panel and audience in Larne for about twenty to twenty five minutes. The rest of the time was spent on the aftermath of the Iraqi War, the failure to as yet find 'weapons of mass destruction', the problems with President Mugabe in Zimbabwe and one further question.
On Saturday June 7th, when the phonelines opened, I called in, gave a brief outline of my background, and stated my view that it was a serious error of judgement to postpone the elections, explaining my reasons for saying so along the lines I stated in my previous website article.
Whilst I hoped I might be called on to the programme I do respect the right of the producers to decide who may participate, but, I thought, surely some listeners, especially from Northern Ireland, might be heard responding to the answers given by panel members.
In the event, however, the 'Any Answers' programme used approximately twenty five minutes dealing with the Iraqi issue and about five minutes on the problem in Zimbabwe, which, I agree, are serious matters of public concern.
Nevertheless, I feel that this was a strange apportionment of time as many hours of airtime had been devoted to those issues over many weeks and was therefore astonished that no attention was given to the two Northern Ireland questions, particularly the postponement of the elections.
So, in the last few that the lines were open I phoned in, registering my view on the omission, which, of course, was not the fault of the person who took my call, who, although she was a bit taken aback by my comments, agreed to pass on my comments to the producer. As usual, I gave my name and telephone number.
Through searching through the Radio Times I found a phone number for the Feed Back programme and registered my concerns. The Duty Information Officer undertook to forward my comments to the producer of that programme. I also supplied him with my name and telephone number.
I intend to send a copy of this article to the producer of 'Feed Back', asking him for an explanation from him and / or from Jonathan Dimbleby, although by doing so I may jeopardise my chance of ever again being called on the the 'Any Answers' programme.
The questions to be answered are:
1. Did anyone other than myself make comments to them on the Saturday about the issues on Northern Ireland and the views of the panel?
2. If so, why was no time given to them on the programme?
3. If no one but I raised either of the two Northen Ireland questions (I would be amazed if such were the case) were my comments not worthy of inclusion, or did they feel that the political situation was too difficult to dwell on it?
We shall see what they have to say, or perhaps we won't?
I shall listen to today's 'Feed Back' - Friday 13th - to find out.
For the benefit of the BBC producers, my views can be seen on the Green Dragon website (shortly).