Adams was the wrong opponent

Anthony McIntyre is critical of Liam Kennedy’s decision to stand in West Belfast, and argues that instead he should have run in his own South Belfast constituency against a more vulnerable opponent like Alex Maskey.

  • beano;

    But he can’t damage Maskey’s majority because he doesn’t, and won’t, have one. The problem with West Belfast, obviously, is that he’s more likely to eat into the vote tally of challengers like Attwood than he is to win votes from Adams’s supporters, whose views are presumably well entrenched and minds made up before the campaign started.

  • Davros

    For me the most interesting part of the article addressed a point that has often been raised here – I know this is off-topic, so Mick can decide whether or not to remove this post :

    “Jenny McCartney writing in the Sunday Telegraph claims she ‘cannot comprehend how someone could vote for Sinn Fein – which blatantly practises the most extreme forms of coercion – and easily reconcile it with his or her conscience.’ Such a perspective, laden as it is with blinkered vision, ignores the fact that the Provisional Movement functions like a para-state in West Belfast. It rules, like most states, through a mixture of coercion and consent. Certainly there is an ongoing debate within the critical republican community within West Belfast about the relationship between consent and coercion. In my view, there is a tendency by Sinn Fein apologists to grossly understate the case for intimidation. But this is equalled by the party’s critics who vastly overstate it. Most people in West Belfast do not directly experience the coercive side of Sinn Fein. It is a minority who live in fear of the party’s wrath. A small number do indeed need protection and Liam Kennedy provides a valuable service in highlighting the issues that he does. But to argue, as many in the British media have done recently – suppressing evidence to the contrary in the course of doing so – that Sinn Fein gets its vote mostly through fear is to present a wildly inaccurate account of life in West Belfast. If the Kennedy project is one of speaking truth to power then it cannot overlook the necessity of speaking truth about power.”

    (emphases in bold are mine )

    Fixed A.U.

  • Davros

    whoops – only Sunday Telegraph was supposed to be italicised.

  • aquifer

    Kennedy stood where the politically sanctioned abuse of young people by paramilitaries was most prevalent.

  • bigwhitedove

    “Kennedy stood where the politically sanctioned abuse of young people by paramilitaries was most prevalent”.

    care to elaborate on this ? as I hail from the West and do not know what you are referring to.

    I know that on many occasions my MP has denounced punishment beatings and called for them to end

    I also know West Belfast has the highest number of young people living in poverty, on the child protection register, under achieving at school, poor health and highest number of deaths from accidents at home and on the Streets, surely these forms of institutional & state abuse merit mention

  • Oilbhéar Chromaill

    Ah but BWD you don’t get it – Liam Kennedy has a Sinn Féin fixation, those other problems you mention could not be solved by SF because they’re caused by years of neglect by the British – and for Liam Kennedy, the professor of economic history that he is, to take a stand against the way in which economic policy has been used as a tool of repression as the British have done wouldn’t do at all.

    I also thought it highly amusing that Prof Kennedy was given such a high profile in the Sunday Dodo, the Sunday Times and the Sunday Telegraph with various articles. Do the writers of these articles really believe anybody in West Belfast will pay any attention to their clarion calls?
    Or is their agenda to set Prof Kennedy up for a fall because when the votes are counted, I’d be surprised if he gets even a fraction of his last tally – 102 was it? Will Messrs Harris, Clarke and Ms. McCartney ruefully point to the irredeemable natives of West Belfast and say there go we but for the grace of God.

    As for Ms McCartney’s claims about not understanding why anyone should vote for Sinn Fein – I feel the same way about people who voted for Robert McCartney SC in North Down. A vote for him was like a vote for Tyrannosaurus Rex – for all his sweet talk, behind it all he was never any better than his unionist counterparts.

  • bill

    I believe areas of Newtownabbey have the highest rates of punishnent beatings and shootings

    Is there any statistical analysis on the areas which have most attacks recorded

  • beano;

    “highest number of deaths from accidents at home and on the Streets”
    How on Earth do you derive that these are “forms of institutional & state abuse”. Surely one of the reasons the accidents on the streets are so high is the culture of lawlessness created by the imposition of no-go areas for the PSNI!

  • Davros

    Liam Kennedy has a Sinn Féin fixation

    Are kids still told to present themselves at S.F. offices for their punishment beatings and shootings O Ch ?

  • harry

    Can anyone tell me when the last punishment attack was carried out in West Belfast

  • jed


    They might be safer presenting themselves to anyone other than the PSNI,if their actions in the Waterside area of Derry are anything to go by

  • beano;

    “Can anyone tell me when the last punishment attack was carried out in West Belfast”
    I heard something (from Slugger I think) last week about an attack on a joyrider by the Official IRA – whom I thought had disbanded 30 odd years ago!

  • aquifer

    BWD I used the past tense

    If SFPIRA are on the run on this issue then Kennedy is right to maintain this momentum.

    “I know that on many occasions my MP has denounced punishment beatings and called for them to end”

    In the case of SFPIRA it’s not what the political side of the coin says in public that matters, its what the other side does in private.

  • jed


    Thanks for that.

    Any other info. on the Official IRA.

    Any politics,crime etc..

  • Davros

    Can anyone tell me when the last punishment attack was carried out in West Belfast

    None since the election was called from what I can see, but they will doubtless start again after the election harry. As has been pointed out before certain politicians can turn them on and off like a tap.

  • beano;

    Jed, all I know about the Official IRA is that they were the original IRA who took on very Marxist leanings in the 60s and I thought had abandoned violence (hence the formation of the Provos).

    Their political wing, official Sinn Fein, has become the Workers Party.

    Of course this is all before my time so I may stand to be corrected on this.

  • Davros

    it’s more complicated than that Beano. The Catholic Church and some within the IRA were alarmed not only at the red aspect but also at the influence held by a protestant academic called Dr Roy Johnston.It’s ironic that SF have themselves drifted towards what was then anathema – Stages theory.

    Stages Theory

    However, the notion that class, gender or other concerns could displace or replace the national issue should be rejected. This mistaken strategy was codified in Stalinism as the ‘stages theory’ and adopted by the Official IRA in the 1960s and 1970s: the first stage is to unite nationalist and unionist workers on a purely class basis while the question of nation is dealt with at a later stage.

    In Search of Ireland a cultural geography edited by Brian Graham , Routledge, © 1997, p 232

  • bigwhitedove

    “highest number of deaths from accidents at home and on the Streets”
    Beano me old chum its called a Mortality Ratio and it is designed to identify groups of people what they die from and what ages they die at. It can be used as a means to measure inequalities in society. Check out the Chief Medical Officers yearly report.
    But it would run along the lines of( in Shankill & Falls)
    Poor housing stock
    lack of play facilities
    no green space or gardens
    Children play on roads or in dangerous areas
    Roads designed with conflict in mind and hence no traffic calming
    cars go fast
    hit kids etc etc etc

    Perhaps if I stated this initially you wouldnt have had a hissy about the PSNI but this institutionalised state policy kills more children than any organisation in working class nationalist and unionist areas!!

  • beano;

    Do joyriders not count for a significant chunk of traffic accidents in WB then? I’d thought this was a serious problem there.

  • spartacus


    You’ve managed in a couple of short posts to raise more social issues than Kennedy’s entire campaign. He is of course not at all concerned with social or economic inequality, or with state repression, or with loyalist violence. He is in fact an apologist for all of these things.

    McIntyre’s piece doesn’t quite hit the mark, because he himself has been sucked in to the ‘totalitarian’ critique of PRM, which is popular among academics and Indo readers and snobs of various hues but which has–and can have–no traction in working class areas like West Belfast because it has nothing to say about the more general conditions that people in these areas have to endure.

    Compare Kennedy’s single soundbite campaign with McCann’s campaign in Derry to see the differnece. There is an opening for a left alternative to SF (and one that can even begin to bridge the sectarian divide) but Kennedy would not have a clue what that means and McIntyre is too confused and all-over-the place to do anything about it. That is the tragedy of the non-SF ‘republicans’: many of them see no alternative but to carry on a dead-end ‘military campaign’ (being generous there) where the conditions do not exist. The rest of them seem compromised by their enthusiasm for an ‘anti-totalitarian’ politics that cannot connect with the aspirations of ordinary people. In McIntyre’s case it leads him to denounce the people amongst whom he has lived most of his non-prison life as a bunch of thick SF drones.


    Kennedy is NOT standing in an area “where the politically sanctioned abuse of young people by paramilitaries was most prevalent”–at least according to his own statistics.

    His motivation is transparent, as is the explanation for all the accolades from the establishment hacks–his long-term fixation with nationalism means that SF is the main target, the only target.

  • jed

    So the Workers Party are still shooting people in punishment attacks,does the media not investigate this.

  • PatMcLarnon

    Kennedy will be lucky getting three figures in west Belfast. I doubt that in a tight contest like Sth Belfast he would have done much better.

    With the Sunday Telegraph, Sunday Independent and Fionna O Malley in his corner he sure does know how to influence nationalist electors.
    No doubt though in years to come Ruth, Eoghan et al will be regaling us all with how brave Kennedy was to take on the nationalist hordes, all the while those hordes simply yawned and wondered why there was all the fuss.

  • Ruth Dudley Edwards

    Where did you get the idea that Liam Kennedy was not opposed to loyalist violence, Spartacus? In his election literature, the paramilitaries he singles out are the UDA,the UVF and the LVF as well as the IRA, INLA and the Real IRA.
    Professor Kennedy has spent 15 years campaigning against the torture of children. You can read all aboutit on

  • spartacus


    I certainly hope you approach your historical research with more skepticism than you display here. The website to which you referred me resembles one of those puffed-up resumes that fifteen year-olds submit when looking for their first job–‘put it all in there, they might buy it’. He’s an apologist for loyalist sectarianism and violence: have a trawl through the newspaper archives and retrieve his dusgusting public comments during the Holy Cross ‘dispute’, for starters.

  • Davros

    That’s a disgraceful post spartacus.

  • middle-class taig

    “Where did you get the idea that Liam Kennedy was not opposed to loyalist violence?”

    So why has he only ever stood in the overwhelmingly nationalist constituency of West Belfast, Ruth? Why not East Belfast, North Belfast, East Antrim, Lagan Valley, etc, etc? There’s just as much of the violence he complains of there.

    Secretly, I suspect that the Sindo chatterati are desperately hoping that Liam repeats his abysmal electoral performances of yesteryear, because it will give them yet another opportunity to proclaim to the world how positively frightful are the human filth of west Belfast. If Kennedy is as worthy a man as you would have us accept, it worries me that he may be being erected as a man-of-straw-by-proxy.

    If Kennedy performs as expected, I would hope that in the op-ed pieces which will inevitably follow, excoriating my neighbours for having the affrontery not to vote for who Dublin 4 wants them to vote for, journalists will take the time to compass the possibility, however remote, that Kennedy attracts few votes in West Belfast because the community which lives there does not share his analysis of where responsibility lies for the violence he complains of and because the issues he raises are not the most pressing ones facing that community.

    I notice that on his website, Kennedy exhorts the paramilitaries to exit the scene so that children “may grow free from fear”. Those who are sharpening the knives once more for West Belfast’s embattled community need to reflect on the fact that many of people there think that the current generation of nationalists HAS grown up free from fear (unlike their predecessors) in part BECAUSE of certain paramilitaries. I personally do not subscribe to that view and am worried by its outworkings, but it must be acknowledged that it is not a minority opinion in West Belfast.


    I hope you are going to substantiate or retract those very worrying comments.

  • Mick Hall

    Standing in an election is not only about getting elected, it can also be a unique opportunity to bring to the public eye something one feels strongly about. Liam Kennedy feels strongly that children should not be brutalised, beaten or shot. Are we any worse off by him bringing this to our attention? I would suggest not. True those newspapers who have given him coverage are being hypocritical as they have often turned a blind eye to state violence, so what we all marked there cards long ago, so no surprise there then.

    Kennedy is not going to take votes from Mr Adams so there is no need for SF supporters to get all in a lather over this. What we would be better off doing is giving some thought as to why some of our youngsters are still being brutalised and not by the British army or PSNI, (although the news out of Derry seems to imply this is still going on) but by people from within our own working class communities. Sure some of these kids can be a bloody nuisance, but are we really saying that with the ceasefire almost ten years old, we do not have the wit to find another way to deal with this problem. Which after all is not unique to the north but is part of daily life almost everywhere and has been since time began. (almost;)

    Lets drop the habit of blaming the messenger and deal with the problem, then the likes of Liam Kennedy would have no need to stand for parliament.

    regards to all.

  • George

    “I suspect that the Sindo chatterati are desperately hoping that Liam repeats his abysmal electoral performances of yesteryear, because it will give them yet another opportunity to proclaim to the world how positively frightful are the human filth of west Belfast.”

    No, they’ve moved on to castigating the entire population now. This was in the same paper:

    North beyond hope

  • middle-class taig

    Mick Hall

    The fact that the problem still exists is bloody ridiculous, both from the perpective that the people responsible think they are entitled to do it and the perspective that adequate and effective policing measures have not been taken to deal with the supposed offences for which these beatings are carried out. Fundamentally, agreed arrangements on policing and justice will fix this for all time.

    It’s not a question of “blaming the messenger”. I think people from West Belfast are entitled to get into a lather about journalists piggybacking onto this man’s candidature in order to give West Belfast another hammering. He’s not from West Belfast, nor does he live here. Why doesn’t he stand where he lives if the problem is similar there? I agree that the problem needs dealing with, but those same journalists are the first people to criticise CRJ other schemes aimed at doing so. We are entitled to query the motivation and methods both of candidates and their fellow-travellers.

  • Davros

    He’s not from West Belfast, nor does he live here.

    Are all SF candidates for Westminster seats from or resident in the constituencies for which they are standing ? The reason he’s standing for West Belfast has nothing to do with slighting the people of West Belfast , but everything to do with standing against the President of Sinn Féin, a man of considerable influence.

  • spartacus

    RDE above states that LK has been involved for fifteen years in standing up against the torture of children. Can she, or anyone point to a single public comment of his over the course of that time which condemns state violence or which condemns loyalist sectarianism? It doesn’t seem to me that anyone remotely concerned with the rights of children could remain ‘neutral’ in a situation where young girls are being subject to ongoing verbal abuse by grown men. Or worse, urge support for a police force discredited among those on the receiving end. Unless that ‘concern’ was merely a cover for anti-republican bias.

    My larger point is that ‘end paramilitarism’ is not a platform. As others have noted, there are a range of pressing social and economic problems hitting people on West Belfast very hard, and arguably with more devastating effects than punishment beatings, gruesome and deplorable as they are. Doesn’t it seem strange that an economic historian has nothing to say about these issues? An alternative to SF will only be built–if it can be–by people who do not share the establishment’s contempt for ordinary people. Wonderful tales about the benign effects of occupation are not a good place to start, in my opinion.

  • middle-class taig


    Of course it’s a slight on West Belfast, whether intentional or not. This is why the community there has stopped listening to people like Kennedy. They’re nowhere to be seen when nationalist communities are getting seven bells knocked out of them, but come election time they’re all over the papers and TV wallowing in the bottomless well of their concern.

    SF candidates, as I understand it, are hoping to represent the areas they’re standing in. He’s simply denigrating the area he’s standing in by painting it as a centre of punishment beatings, which it has long since stopped being. I’d have plenty of respect for him if he looked beyond West Belfast. In fact, so far as I can see, of the main leaders, Adams is doing as much as any other to actually end this kind of violence.

    You are right in one thing, this has “everything to do with standing against the President of Sinn Féin”…..

  • hector

    Posted by: beano;
    Jed, all I know about the Official IRA is that they were the original IRA who took on very Marxist leanings in the 60s and I thought had abandoned violence (hence the formation of the Provos).


    Very, very generally speaking at the time of the split the differences between the Goulding/MacGiolla (OIRA) faction and the O’Bradaigh/MacStiofain (PIRA) faction was about their different approaches toward Northern Ireland.
    The Officials took a Marxist, or more precisely Stalinist approach, and the Provisionals took the purist Republican approach. The Officials were influenced particularly by Roy Johnson and Anthony Coughlin who entered Sinn Fein after spending several years in the ultra-Stalinist British Communist Party. The Provisionals maintained the traditional purist Republican approach dating from the early 20th century.
    Simply put the first sought to destroy NI through workers unity and the second through armed struggle. Both were marked by a rigid dogmatism that I feel were ill-suited for the realities on the ground in NI. Worker’s unity isn’t feasible in Northern Ireland and obviously armed struggle alone is quite limited. Unsurprisingly the then leaderships of both factions were southern based.
    The approach of the Adams/McGuinness leadership since the later 1970s and particularly since the 1980s has to a large extent been a hybrid of the two, though shorn of their dogmatism. Again put simply it has like the Officials sought to involve Republicans in broader issues of interests to working class people and like the earlier Provisionals maintains a steadfast commitment for Irish national sovereignty and cultural advancement.

  • Davros

    MCT – no need to be rude.

    The point was made that He isn’t from and doesn’t live in West Belfast. The same could be said about at least one SF candidate. Prof Kennedy has done a lot of work on the issue of this form of child abuse. If he’s going to stand against any political figure in order to try to change things for the better, he might as well stand against the person most likely to have influence.

  • dee st

    Would David Irvine not have the same influence,considering the ammount of paramilitary attacks carried our in the East of the city over the last six months.

    The people of Ballybeen,Tullycarnet and the Newtownards Road might have welcomed the opportunity to voice their concerns

  • middle-class taig

    Oh come on Davros, what do you expect when you come off with your standard reply – “Are all SF candidates for Westminster seats from or resident in the constituencies for which they are standing?” The fact is that Kennedy is not hoping to represent, he’s hoping to embarrass. In doing so he does more to stigmatise West Belfast than solve the issue. Moreover, he appears to completely ignore policing-related problems connected to this issue. In doing so, I think he makes himself a charlatan in the eyes of the West Belfast electorate, as, I believe, will be borne out on polling day.

    I’m actually shocked you posted such a lame argument.

    Dee St

    What, and forego the chance of whinging about Gerry?