It used to be, years ago, that there were so many bomb scares, punishment beatings and arson attacks that Northern Ireland news programmes had little time for the ‘human interest’ stories. On a quiet day, you might see a story about one man’s attempt to bake the world’s biggest soda farl, or about an injured doggy being brought back to consciousness after his owner played him tapes of Brian Kennedy singing.
These days, when I observe local Northern Ireland news programmes and internet sites, I am often tempted to smother myself with the nearest cushion. I have nothing against Northern Ireland remaining part of the UK for as long as its inhabitants wish this to be the case, but I would really love to be spared all the dumb ‘local interest’ stories that have filled the vacuum left by political normalisation. Why do so many of them seem to involve ice hockey rinks? And if it isn’t ice hockey, it’s about the local connection to the latest worldwide news story. In the latter, it’s as if there’s an anxious attempt to legitimate Northern Ireland’s existence by connecting, however tenuously, to the outside world.
Look at this story here. This is an inversion of the ‘every conflict has a silver lining’ stories that frequently get told in Northern Ireland news:
‘The recent conflict in the Lebanon has led to an upsurge in interest in wine from the region, a County Down wine merchant has said.’
Maybe Jim Nicholson was right.