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BHA: New FOI request suggests Northern Irish Government may be responsible for creationism in exhibit at Giant’s Causeway

A Freedom of Information request submitted by the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland has shown that the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) may be responsible for creationism being promoted by an exhibit at the new visitor’s centre at the Giant’s Causeway. The British Humanist Association (BHA) has expressed concern about potential Government interference in a scientific display.

In early July, the National Trust opened its new visitor’s centre at the Giant’s Causeway, but was immediately met with a negative backlash over part of the exhibit which gave credence to the creationist view of the origin of the site. Creationist group the Caleb Foundation immediately claimed credit for this, leading to concern about how the National Trust had been lobbied on this issue.

The National Trust shortly announced that they were to review the exhibit, and earlier this month, amended it to make clear that the creationist view is not scientifically valid. This seemed to be the end of the matter.

However, an email uncovered by the Alliance Party, from a civil servant within DETI and dated 9 November 2009, states that ‘I've amended draft to take on board NITB [Northern Ireland Tourist Board] comment re National Trust unwillingness to accept Creationism to be included in the exhibition , as a grant condition. Are you content for submission to be submitted?’

This implies that that DETI and NITB tried to make the inclusion of creationist views be a condition of their £10 million grant to the National Trust for the development of the new visitor’s centre. Since 2008, DETI’s Minister has been Arlene Foster, a member of the Democratic Unionist Party.

The Caleb Foundation has close links to the DUP, so this email raises further questions about the Foundation and the DUP’s influence on the exhibit. In 2010, there was similar pressure from the DUP to include creationist viewpoints in a display on evolution in the recently re-opened Ulster Museum.

The National Trust has denied that including creationist views was a condition of getting public funding.

BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented, ‘If it is the case that the Government and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board tried to influence the National Trust to include creationist views in the Giant’s Causeway exhibit, then that is something of grave concern. It is a simple fact that there is no evidence in support of the creationist view of the site’s origins, and overwhelming evidence in support of geological explanations. Politicians should not ignore facts when making decisions.’

Notes

For further comment or information, please contact Andrew Copson on 07855 380 633.

Read more about the BHA’s work on countering creationism: http://www.humanism.org.uk/campaigns/religion-and-schools/countering-creationism

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.

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