Lisburn is famous for a number of things: flax, linen ... and its council.
And while the proportion of people in Northern Ireland who believe in a literal seven day creation is actually greater than any other part of the UK, Lisburn Council - and in particular its unionist politicians - seem to be a particularly dense statistical anomaly that bucks the trend.
So it was no surprise to see a trailer parked up in Bow Street advertising the Creation Weekend being organised by the Lisburn and Hillsborough Free Presbyterian Churches in September in conjunction with Answer in Genesis (who for me leave more questions than answers).
Having picked up one of their leaflets (click on the images below to see larger versions) which explains the Giant's Causeway is "Evidence for Noah's Flood", I noticed Lisburn Councillor, MLA, and member of the NI Executive (formerly as Minster for Culture, Arts and Leisure and most recently as Minister (elect) of the Environment) wandering down the street. His theological views and their overlap with his ministerial role have been noted in the media. And he took the time this afternoon to have a good chat with the team manning the roadshow.
Update - 6 July - Post title and content amended with word "(elect)" for clarification.
Update - 6 July at 6pm - I got an email this morning from the Department of the Environment Information Officer requesting that the “photo of the Minister with his daughter” be taken down”. It went on to state that “On no occasion was permission requested for this photo to be taken, let alone published on this site. It is well known that photos of children should not be taken and published without full parental consent.”
1. Edwin Poots was Minister (elect) of the Environment when this photograph was taken, so it is difficult to understand why the department’s press office have intervened. When asked - on the phone- the press officer suggested that since it was “a live site” and “had now been brought to their attention” and felt it was within their remit. I’m not aware that retrospective editing of a new minister’s history is the remit of a department press office?
2. The girl in the photograph - identified by the DOE press office as his daughter - was blurred out when the post first went up,: her hair, face and clothing pattern. Still looked like a child, but not a sharp image. But since she wasn’t the subject of the photo - but the photo looks bad cropped above her head - I obscured her identity (without being asked).
3. If you’re in a public place you can take a photograph without permission. There’s no law to stop you. If you’re in a school or a sports club or some other private area, the organisation may have restrictions. But on the street, anyone can take your photo. Pretty obvious that the photograph wasn’t in anyway pornographic so child protection concerns don’t really come into it.
4. After a long conversation, the press officer did eventually say that the photo was causing distress to the minister. Up until that point the discussion all centred around the press officer, what he was doing, what he would feel as a parent, and not directly mentioning the minister.
If Edwin Poots had fired up Outlook and sent an email saying he was distressed and normally kept his family out of the press, I’d have been very sympathetic. Much less sympathetic to the intervention of his department’s press office.
Since I’m off on holiday, I don’t need the hassle of defending a perfectly reasonable photograph, or waiting for Edwin Poots to get in touch directly with what seems to be a personal request. And since the press office eventually verbally state - though not in their original email - that the photo was causing distress to the minister, I’ve crudely cut the girl out of the picture, re-uploaded it, and will now go back to the beach.
In the meantime, I wonder if the DOE Press Office will think again about how they might be perceived to be bullying people to take action on historic online publications that pre-date their minister coming to office, and whether they are representing his departmental responsibilities or his personal wishes.
And I do hope that no distress was caused to Edwin Poots' family. Certainly none was intended.