Best backlash angers fans…

ONE of today’s talking points was this Sunday Times article by Bryan Appleyard, bitterly criticising how Northern Ireland reacted to George Best’s death. Already Norn Iron supporters are talking of a boycott of the Sunday Times, and its owners might be having flashbacks about the Sun’s sales in Liverpool after it demonised the local team’s fans after the Hillsborough disaster (later leading to a grovelling apology after the paper lost millions in sales and advertising). Appleyard has a valid point to make, even if you don’t agree.

But it was entirely lost in the badly-written, condescending, agenda-driven drivel that appeared to have more to do with promoting Bryan Appleyard than writing any kind of serious analysis of the events surrounding George Best’s death.

For example, his description of Best’s family at his funeral: Dickie, the father, an absurdly small figure; Angie, the first wife, in furs; Calum, the son, sharply almost sinisterly suited.

The distasteful comparison to the funeral of Diana suggests there was some kind of post-death competition between the two, or that the English were better mourners that us at that sob “most emotional funeral” of ‘the People’s Princess’. It’s morbidly crass and unjustified, even if Diana was far from flawless too. God only knows what will happen if her and Best bump into each other in St Peter’s Bar and an angel offers George a Harp…

It’s worth noting that the ST published an edited-down version of the article in its Northern Ireland edition. While I would defend the right of Mr Appleyard to say what he likes, he might ask himself why his employer chose not to publish his article in full in the very place it was written.

  • Gonzo,

    What was the valid point you think he was trying to make?

    The worst part of this article for me were the sectarian remarks from two spides in the Utd club on the Falls. He said himself there were more tolerant views in the club, why didn’t he concentrate on them?

    Considering the crap “Sean” was coming out with, (100,000 Catholics in East Belfast, why didn’t the funeral come round West Belfast, etc etc) I have my doubts whether he actually existed. More likely a creation of Appleyard’s imagination to fit in with his own agenda.

    Apart from another terrible article by the space cadet, O’Caireallain at Daily Ireland, this was the only time that I saw an attempt at finding a sectarian angle to the whole thing.

    Mr Appleyard is also an author.
    The title of his book? “Aliens: Why They’re here”

  • Mick Fealty

    Appleyard is a good writer generally. I have a lot of time for him. I disagree with Paul. There was a sectarian subtext not to the event, but the way the event was ‘consumed’ by various parts of the media. In that section you link to, he successfully picks it up.

    I wondered when I read it on Sunday, whether his piece was not undermined somewhat by the absurdedly short deadline he must have had. A lot of local people must have stopped reading after the gratuitous insult to Best’s family.

    It looks too as if he’d worked the Diana hook on the plane on the way over. Now, I was not caught up in the Diana thing. But for me it just doesn’t ring true.

  • Andy

    This is beinmg ‘discussed’ on the Stephen Nolan show at the moment, and the point is being missed totally. It is just focussing on the implied criticism of GB and the Best family.

    Appleyard indulged in lazy journalism-
    (1) the guff about armed police when Hain arrived, implied if they were not there he would have been killed by the local terrorists.
    (2) That nonsence from the Manchester Utd Supporters Club on the Falls about the funeral cortege not going through nationalist areas (did they expect the route to be diverted past their pub for their benefit???) you go to a Funeral, it does not come to you.
    (3)100,000 Catholics in East Belfast. Not accurate and irrelevant anyway. A sectarian angle introduced by the author of the piece
    (4)Also from one of the sources in the Fall Rd Bar that he would not be going to the funeral because he would get his throat cut if he went and waved a tricolour. Why would he want to wave his tricolor at a funeral? Is it not the case that many people went to Stormont with gaelic tops, Celtic scarves and seemed to survive the experience?

    So Mick.I do not agree woth you. This piece (while well written) was lazy journalism from someone who was taking an opportunity to put his journalistic feet into Northern Ireland. He brought a sectarian angle into something which was cross community.

    What is also rather suspicious is the fact that the version which appeared in my local version of the ST was a heavily sanitised version of what appeared on the mainland and on line ST.

  • But, as they say, when the fact becomes a legend, print the legend.
    Has it escaped readers that norn iron thrives on myths, and when Mr Appleyard or anyone else for that matter points that out, the angry mob staying baying for blood.

  • G1973

    I read the ST article published over here in England.

    It was really poorly written, it appeared to me at least as though he had an axe to grind.

    For example he quoted the lad in the bar on the Falls as saying he would get ‘his throat cut’ if he went to the funeral with his tricolour. Maybe he could of expected trouble, maybe not but that’s not the point. I doubt it’s the sort of thing many would of considered taking to the funeral of George.

    He just had to try and give a sectarian slant to it.

  • G1973
    There was a sectarian slant already, the courtege did not go through Catholic areas, and that one man interviwed was in fear of his life.
    Why hide those facts, and dress is up in cotton-wool? Journalism is to Tell the truth. No/Yes?
    What do you want the rose-tinted version or Reality?

  • Mick Fealty


    The Cregagh estate is about three miles from the Falls. That’s a six or seven mile round trip to Stormont. I very much doubt the motive was sectarian as ascribed.

  • Briso

    My complaint about the coverage of the funeral is neatly summed up by these two adjacent pieces (one before, one after) which were on the front page of the Tele site (now page three).

    Thousands gather to say their last farewell
    Publication Date: 03 December 2005
    TENS of thousands of mourners today stood united in grief with the family of George Best as the world paid a final farewell to the unforgettable legend.

    Half a million say farewell
    Publication Date: 03 December 2005
    HALF a million mourners will today stand united in grief with the family of George Best as the world pays a final farewell to the unforgettable legend.

  • Mick,
    Geography is clearly not on my side here.
    Who said the world was round? 🙂

  • “There was a sectarian slant already, the courtege did not go through Catholic areas, and that one man interviwed was in fear of his life”

    As Mick has pointed out, that’s a silly comment SL. There are thousands of Utd fans throughout the whole Ireland who would have loved to pay their repects, should the courtege have gone on a one week tour to accomodate them all?

    If the idiot concerned had left his own petty-minded bigotry aside and went to pay his respects in a dignified fashion, like thousands of others (including that well-known Prod Martin McGuinness) I’m sure we would have got back home with his throat intact.

  • Oops, I didn’t know “bigotry” was now on the banned list, I’ll have to check out a few synonyms.
    And SL apologies our 2 most recent posts crossed in cyberspace

  • iluvni

    Appleyard made a quick exit from the show when Sir Reg started to give him a hard time.

  • s-l:

    There was a sectarian slant already, the courtege did not go through Catholic areas

    I’m sorry, but that is absolutely ridiculous. The cortege took the direct route from the Best home to Stormont- both happen to be in predominantly protestant areas, hence the fact the funeral did not go near catholic areas. This wasn’t by design, but by simple demographics. To suggest the cortege should have taken a vast detour across the city simply to visit a ‘catholic’ area is not only ludicrous, but disrespectful to the Best family- they were grieving for their lost loved one- it’s not their job to parade the body around the city to keep everyone happy.

    I, and many other nationalists, happily braved the rain to line the route along the Knock Dual Carriageway to give George a good sending off.

    As Andy said, you go to a funeral, it does not come to you, and to try and bring sectarianism into the equation, whether by these people apparently commenting in the MUFC club, or by a journalist, is ridiculous.

  • The throat cut nonsense in the piece is just that, my friend, a catholic, took pics for me for my blog of the cortege as it passed up Cregagh Road as I wouldn’t be there.

    Georgie Best

    She mentioned no sectarianism, no throats being cut, just sadness and respect for George Best. Funny that!

    When we went to Roselawn cemetery on Sunday there were scarves of all hues adorning the barrier around the flowers and guess what, no one at all appeared to be affronted, I believe they were too busy paying their last respects to cut some throats of someone who isn’t the same religion.

    I understand why people would want the cortege to travel the lengths and breadths of the country, never mind west Belfast but its a funeral and there were opportunities for people to express their condolesences and that was enough. And anyway would you put a grieving family through that? I dont understand why that diatribe would even make it into a story!!!

    The comparisons with Diana are just lazy and irrelevant to be honest, okay it was a death that struck a chord with people everywhere but there was nowhere near the same mass hysteria associated with Diana. The journo is almost congratulatory on the fact that 3m turned out for Diana’s funeral as opposed to the paltry 30,000 in Stormont and the 30,000 on the streets of Belfast.(sure aren’t they just great!)

    It was a patronising and lazy piece and hopefully it will be taken as such.

  • SG

    Like George Best’s life, the funeral had no place for sectarianism.

    I live in Ballymena, should i feel discriminated against, victimised and bitter that the coffin did not drive through the streets of my town simply because i support man utd, and loved Bestie?

    If you look for something you will find evidence of it.

    Appreciate George Best’s life and funeral for what it was, NON-sectarian.

    Many thanks to Martin Mcguinness, Alex Ferguson, and most importantly, Brian Kennedy (born and bred the Falls Rd Belfast) for paying their respects to a great man. As well as the thousands of other Catholics who paid their respects that day to a man who was not perfect, but who was not sectarian in life OR DEATH. He was above that, we should be too.

  • John East Belfast

    I think the 100,000 Catholics in East Belfast is a typo – should have read West Belfast.

    Proves accusations of lazy journalism and/or the guy in the Falls Bar never said that at all. My money would be on the latter as that is not the kind of language working class guys in Belfast bars, West or East, use.

    He has made it up – infact I would also be surprised if anyone from Belfast could be as stupid to complain about a funeral taking a 7 mile detour just to go down the Falls Road ? Sounds to me like this was made up by somebody who doesn’t know Belfast geography that well ?

    I think some other journalist should track down this Falls Road guy and find out what he actually said.

    Either that or Appleyard does not know his arse from his elbow – which would be equally valid.

  • Lonely Pint

    Nevertheless, the idea that Belfast City Airport be named afer George Best is absolutely ludicrous and totally OTT. Whoever thought that one up needs to start taking some deep breaths.

    Then lie down in a darkened room.

  • Moyle Rover

    Why shouldnt the city airport be named after best. The airport in Liverpool is John Lennon airport, why not one in Belfast after its most famous son. Besides it would clear up the confusion amongst English people about which Belfast airport they were flying into

  • Moyle – it’s not that complicated, sure London has 4 airports, 5 if you include Luton, and we can usually work it out OK. (If it’s that big a problem, I suggest returning to using Aldergrove).

    At the end of the day it’s up to those running the airport, but I’m not sure that their attempts would be much more than cashing in on Geordie’s name.

    The story in the times is a joke and if it’s true that the quote is made up it’s irresponsible as its exactly that sort of impression of ‘the other side’ that fans the flames of prejudice. How many do you think would read it and just think “Typical!” ? I’d say a fair few.

  • “The story in the times is a joke and if it’s true that the quote is made up it’s irresponsible as its exactly that sort of impression of ‘the other side’ that fans the flames of prejudice”

    It’s interesting that punters in the bar in question, (The Red Devil) were quoted on both UTV and the Telegraph and there was none of the kind of nonsense spouted that Appleyard spoke about.

    Were UTV and the Tele just being discreet in not quoting “dissenting” opinion, or was Appleyard simply lucky from the point of view of his own agenda to find “Sean” and “Barry” ?

    With the Tele covering the story tonight, it’ll be interesting to see if the pub regulars confirm what really happened.

  • Brendan, Belfast

    I would suggest that Appleyard was no where near the Falls Road and didn;t speak to any catholic who feared going to the funeral.

    Appleyard is a lazy arse journalist who simply couldn’t be bothered to write a fair and accurate piece and so made up a nasty piece.

    its best ignored.

  • Oh my god I am watching BBC1 (Wednesday, Dec 8 at 22.35) and the Stephen Nolan show where they are talking about the articles and are speaking to this Scottish journalist!!! who is the epitome of horror justifying in the most vicious terms a horrible article she wrote about George Best.

    She’s an associate editor and she outrageously insulted all those who attended the funeral.

    Stephen Nolan is practically throwing a casket.

    Shame on her the buck eejit!

  • Shes the associate editor of the Daily Record, Joan Burnie something.

    ‘We mourn him for the footballer he was, not for the illness that killed him’

    ‘I was proud to be a wet clown on Saturday morning,’said some of the texters to the programme refering to that woman’s comments that mourners were clowns.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Some of the comments on this thread demanding that Best’s cortege should have gone on a huge detour are absurd, and serve to remind us about how even when we have no basis to have a problem here, we’ll invent one.

  • Betty Boo

    “Do not go gentle into the good night
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light”
    (Dylan Thomas)

    You are so right, Comrade.

  • G2

    Bryan Appleyard of the Sunday Times is renowned for being a controversial sceptic, critic & prize shitstirrer of almost everything and anything. His article was meant for an English readership that is why it was reduced in the Northern Ireland edition. The Editor probably slipped it in to the Irish edition to see what reaction it would get.

    However Appleyard’s article reveals the thoughts and feelings of some people who are frightened to say anything about the Belfast football hero’s drunken antics off the football pitch over the past 35 years in case they are accused of pissing all over poor Geordie’s grave.

  • Realist

    “There was a sectarian slant already, the courtege did not go through Catholic areas”

    It went the most direct route available to Stormont, utilising major thoroughfares.

    I was joined on the Dual Carriageway at the top of the Cregagh Road by many of my Catholic neighbours as the cortege passed…I am happy to report that not one of them had their throats slit.

    I am also happy to report that I saw no evidence of any surveys being conducted about one’s religious persuasion.

  • tot

    this is the most pointless thread since i tried to darn my socks without a needle.

    if you want to be offended you will or we could try acting like normal people for once.

    (storms out slamming metaphorical door in exasperation)

  • Concerned Loyalist

    Explain to me the “sectarian subtext” of “the way the event was ‘consumed’ by various parts of the media”…

    I agree with all you say. Why the hell would anyone want to wave a tricolour at Bestie’s funeral? I would have no objections to tricolours at Roy Keane’s funeral, who I admire greatly as a diehard Man U fan, but he was born in and played for the Republic of Ireland. Why would anyone in their right mind want to wave one at the funeral of a NORTHERN Ireland legend?

    All in all I am gutted that the sectarian card has been played here. In my university course I am one of a few “token Prods” as we have been good-humouredly referred to. Some of the wee girls, some from republican families from “Derry”, Dundalk and West Belfast were nearly in tears when we were talking about the funeral in Monday morning, and were telling stories about how their “Mammy was in love with Georgie”, and how their “Daddy had watched him all the time when he was young and thought he was the best player that ever lived”.

    We had common ground and a shared sense of loss. Articles like the bile written by Appleyard undermines this and divides rather than unites…

  • G2

    Joan Burnie, of the Daily Record wants to concentrate her attention to stories on the “Bullington club” a breeding ground for English alcoholics from Eton & Oxford, and leave Geordie to rest in peace.

    Tories putting on new toff hat Dec 08
    Oliver Burkeman | The Guardian

    “Cameron was also a member of the Bullingdon Club, an exclusive and largely Old Etonian society notorious for drunkenness and violence. Last December, for example, members caused extensive damage to a 15thcentury pub near Oxford, leading to 14arrests. Earlier this year, the Mail On Sunday revealed Osborne’s membership of the club in what was seen as an attempt to damage his career. (“During one incident, witnessed by [Osborne], a Bullingdon man was locked in a portable toilet and rolled down the hill by a second club member, a Hungarian count,” the paper reported breathlessly). “