Barnet councillor Dan Thomas calls for TRNC travel ads ban

A Deputy Council Leader in North London criticised Transport for London for allowing adverts for holidays in the TRNC, which he called “insensitive”.

Barnet councillor Dan Thomas, who is also standing as Conservative candidate for the Greater London Authority later this year, has called on TfL to remove the adverts.

He says the ads on buses and tube stations are offensive to Greek Cypriot Londoners, of whom Barnet has one of the city’s biggest concentrations. Cllr Thomas said: “Refugees who made London their home after the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus will be looking at the adverts in disbelief. TfL should not be promoting an illegally-occupied territory as a holiday destination.”

He said the ads were insensitive and should be removed without delay: “How would you like it if someone kicked you out of your home town, then advertised it to the world as a place to go on holiday? The timing is also insensitive, when negotiations are taking place to reunify the island.”

T-VINE asked Cllr Thomas to clarify his position. When asked, “The UK Government supports the current UN Cyprus Talks, which are aimed at establishing a just and fair political relationship between the two main communities on the island. Do you feel your remarks further these aims, and Mr Cameron’s position; or that they will cause tension, and make reconciliation less likely?”

Cllr Thomas replied: “It is precisely because there are talks underway that I believe insensitive advertisements should be prevented. There is a lot of goodwill on both sides but matters such as this understandably stir up emotions so it is best if adverts are not displayed when they could cause offence.”

Larnaca Airport, built on Turkish Cypriot land. Photo: PaphosHotelBeach
Larnaca Airport, built on Turkish Cypriot land. Photo: Wikipedia/PaphosHotelBeach

T-VINE: “Do you have Turkish Cypriot voters in your ward? Do you accept that Turkish Cypriots also suffered personal loss in the 1963-74 conflict, and so are equally likely to be offended by pictures of Larnaca and Paphos airports , the tourist hubs which were built substantially on land formerly owned by them?”

Cllr Thomas: “While I accept both Greek and Turkish Cypriots suffered losses during the conflict, it does not justify the continuing occupation of northern Cyprus.”

T-VINE: “What caused your remarks? Do you have personal links of any kind with the island, or (in view of your profession) have you been asked by anyone/group in Barnet to represent them in future Cyprus land negotiations? “

Cllr Thomas: “Barnet is twinned with the Municipality of Morphou, which is now in the occupied zone. I have been to Cyprus and attended the Morphou Rally. There are many Greek Cypriots living in Barnet who will be offended by the northern Cyprus tourism adverts and somebody has to speak up for them. I hope the problem is resolved soon and, in the meantime, no Cypriots are offended by insensitive adverts.”

T-VINE: “You must be aware that similar demands have been made in the past, including most recently by ex-Cllr Brian Coleman, before he was rejected by your party. They have all been thrown out by the Courts. Have you hope of any greater success?”

Cllr Thomas: “I am aware of a previous legal ruling on the matter but there must be a way for a public body to be able to have more control of its advertisement hoardings.”

T-VINE: “Finally, will you be asking for adverts publicising holidays in the south to be taken down as well, because they cause offence to Turkish Cypriots who once owned land there?”

Cllr Thomas: “The south is not occupied by a foreign country and so the situation in my view is not wholly comparable.”

Cllr Thomas’ views brought strong reactions from Turkish Cypriots in London, including travel agent Ahmet Acar, who wrote to him as follows:

Cllr Dan Thomas' (left), Ahmet Acar
Cllr Dan Thomas’ (left), Ahmet Acar

“Shame on you sir. You should apologise to Turkish Cypriots and remove your comments if you are to have any claim to be an advocate of the peace process.”

“Your comments are unfortunate and discriminating. You go against the very logic that you are trying to defend. I very much doubt your knowledge and experience in this matter, and I see your comments as an attempt to get votes for the next GLA election.”

“Adverts do not promote either the current situation in Cyprus or the republic set up by Turkish Cypriots. They only advertise the natural beauties [sic] of the island and there is no political intention. You are the one turning it into a political situation and a conflict, along with some hypocrites with similar views.”

“I will not talk about the legality of the advertisements. That is a black and white issue which was previously decided in English courts. I will not talk about the inhumane embargoes against the Turkish Cypriots. (I mean they have no weapons of mass destruction, nor do they intend to attack anyone. They are not poisoning people on UK soil with Polonium. They are not extremist in anyway.). Learn about the people you are talking about sir. Many have been supporting your party. You may even find one to speak to yourself. No need to demonise them!”

“However, using your logic, aren’t you also supposed to condemn advertisements for resorts in the south of the island? Aren’t you aware that there are properties of Turkish Cypriots that are currently occupied by Greek Cypriots? Some had hotels built on them, with no permission from the owners and no compensation for them?”

“Doesn’t that make your comments discriminating against Turkish Cypriots? Don’t you know hundreds of Turkish Cypriots were made victims by fascist EOKA and they had to flee their homes and countries in 60s and 70s too?”