Censored For Asking Hard Questions

John Gray, in a press release, explains why he resigned from the Committee of the Cave Hill Conservation Campaign. Tomorrow TPQ will feature the censored article written by John Gray which is central to his decision to resign.

On 11 May I resigned from the Committee of the Cave Hill Conservation Campaign.
It was a hard decision. In 1989 I was founding chair of the Save the Cave Hill Conservation Campaign and remained chair of the organisation when it subsequently became the Cave Hill Conservation Campaign and served as such until 2008. I remained on the Committee until my resignation, in all some 27 years of service.

In January of this year major controversy arose about the future of Belfast Zoo. As the Zoo in its active form at Hazelwood and in respect of the dead zone of Bellevue takes up a substantial part of the Cave Hill I thought that it was essential that the Campaign should respond to the debate that was underway at Council and in the wider media.

At the January meeting of the Cave Hill Conservation Campaign committee I proposed a resolution that was indeed critical of the Zoo. This did not achieve consensus and I withdrew it. Instead it was agreed that I should write an article for the Campaign’s annual magazine, the Cave Hill Campaigner.

This I duly did. The article did not call for the closure of the Zoo or adopt a hard line animal rights perspective, but, largely using Council statistics and consultants' reports to the January meeting of the Growth and Regeneration Committee, asked hard questions.

At the April meeting of the Committee of the Cave Hill Conservation Campaign at which I was not present it was decided not to publish my article. That decision was reaffirmed at the May Committee meeting, and hence my resignation.

The principal reason given for non-publication was lack of balance and the need for an opposing article in support of the Zoo. My article had not in fact opposed the Zoo but had asked hard questions about it. The Committee had from January to May to source any counter-posing article, whether from their own number or elsewhere. Even the Zoo was approached in this respect but was unable to deliver. The new edition of the Campaigner will however include an advertisement for the Zoo!

I am bound to view the fate of my article as an act of censorship. It never could have been an expression of the policy of the Campaign given the differing views of committee members, but should have been a means of opening up vital debate.

As matters stand the Cave Hill Conservation Campaign has made no public response to the major issue affecting the Cave Hill this year, and there appears to be no prospect that it will do so. It is in danger of becoming the Whatever You Say, Say Nothing Campaign.


  1. TPQ is particularly pleased to carry this piece given our disdain for censorship. Over the years John Gray has made a substantial contribution to intellectual life while the censors have sought to undermine it. The censored piece will feature on TPQ tomorrow.

  2. on a much lighter note - enjoy!!