Caught in lazy assumptions?

Susan McKay reviews Gary Mitchell’s new play “Remnants of Fear” some of which is drawn from the experiences of the extended Mitchell family were forced from their Rathcoole homes following a campaign of UDA intimidation. Mitchell’s plays have always provided strong insight into the experiences of Belfast working class Loyalist experience and this one examines the deadening, damaging and corrupting hand of loyalist paramilitarism on these areas. However, a chunk of the article’s premise is built upon an outdated stereotype of Unionism. The article makes the claim:

“Instead Mitchell’s decision to give his play to a theatre group associated with republicanism, for production as part of Feile, the West Belfast festival, will be seen as further proof that he is a traitor. ”

Has any prominent Unionist or politician made any such statement against Gary Mitchell?

The article goes on to mention that:

“When Alan McBride – whose wife Sharon was one of those murdered by the IRA in the Shankill bomb – accepted the invitation to deliver the Bloody Sunday lecture earlier this year in Derry, the city’s Protestants mostly stayed away. It is a terrible pity that this Lundy reflex comes into play as soon as someone from a Protestant background steps beyond the old certainties of no surrender and not an inch. McBride spoke well.”

Again did any Unionist make such an attack on Alan McBride for giving the Bloody Sunday lecture? For years UUP and DUP representatives have attended a number of debates and seminars in republican areas. On what basis could they attack Alan McBride for doing the same? How is it known that a “Lundy reflex” is why people didn’t attend?

Unionism hasn’t found the answers to dealing with Loyalist paramilitarism in its communities so it is a legitimate and important question. There is the traditional choice of carrot and stick but so far direct engagement has failed to deliver the degree of change needed because of the fractionalised nature of Loyalist groups and communities, divisions over the agreement, parades issues and an unstrategic approach while Government consistently chooses to spare the rod. However, a caricature of Unionist thinking offers nothing to that debate or an answer.

  • bertie

    This woman annoys he hell out of me. I hope that

    Gary Mitchells play gets the prominance that it deserves (and I hope that it is good quality but even if it’s not, I wish it well). I also hope that it can be done without giving McKay any more prominance. My worry would be that shee will get discussed more than the play and the issues that it throws up.

  • Mick Fealty

    Ball please Bertie!

  • SM: “Instead Mitchell’s decision to give his play to a theatre group associated with republicanism, for production as part of Feile, the West Belfast festival, will be seen as further proof that he is a traitor.”

    FD: “Has any prominent Unionist or politician made any such statement against Gary Mitchell?”

    I see where you’re coming from with the criticisms of the article FD, and to a large extent you’re right. To be fair with this specific quote though, while it may not have been said by an unionist politicians, I wouldn’t be too surprised if that gut reaction is felt by many ordinary loyalists. In many of these communities it seems there is an insinctive mistrust for anything associated with republicans and therefore promoting a play that criticises loyalists for a republican audience may well draw accusations that he is a traitor. In my experience a lot of people won’t think too hard about an issue like this before drawing a conclusion based on a superficial synopsis of the situation.

  • Mick – you might want to have a read of the comments on this thread.

  • DaithiO

    I’m looking forward to seeing this when I visit An Féile an Phobail.

    I guess the fact that Gary being exiled by loyalist paramilitaries and his play being shown on the Falls says a lot about who is and who isn’t sectarian.

  • Garibaldy

    Also a statement on the Mel Gibson thing that should probably be removed.

  • bertie

    Sorry Mick I’ll try to behave. 😉

  • fair_deal

    Beano

    In a the preceding line to the quote she had specifically mentioned the DUP and Orange Order. The reactions I have came across in loyalist working class areas to Gary Mitchell’s plays have been overwhelming positive and this would not be the first were he casts an uncritical eye on Loyalism.

    DaithiO

    It is good that this play is being shown however what has it got to do with sectarian attitudes among nationalists?

  • bertie

    The fact of something that highlights UDA intimidation being shown on the Falls doesn#t indicate lack of sectarianism on the part of anyone in the Falls any more than something about IRA thuggery would mean that if shown on the Shankill.

  • DaithiO

    Fair_Deal…

    “It is good that this play is being shown however what has it got to do with sectarian attitudes among nationalists? ”

    Ok well since you ask, let me ask you this… Could you envisage one of the many plays and cultural events, that help make up the West Belfast Festival, being allowed to be shown on the Shankill or another such area ?

    So when “Remnants of Fear” plays to a packed house on the Whiterock Rd I’ll ask you what sectarian attitudes have to do with unionists !

    😉

  • kensei

    “Has any prominent Unionist or politician made any such statement against Gary Mitchell?”

    I don’t think it was words the relevant parties were using to get their point across.

  • John Maynard

    Susan McKay writes: “When Alan McBride – whose wife Sharon was one of those murdered by the IRA in the Shankill bomb – accepted the invitation to deliver the Bloody Sunday lecture earlier this year in Derry, the city’s Protestants mostly stayed away.”

    The line “the city’s Protestants mostly stayed away” is such an unquantifiable accusation that it can only be seen as a sectarian jibe.

    Did the author do a Tim Pat Coogan and ‘count the Catholics’? Did she count the Protestants? Did she compare her figures to the city’s overall population? How could she tell who was Protestant and Catholic in the audience anyway.

    An article that reveals some rather clichéd prejudice in itself, I’m afraid.

  • eastbelfastloyalist

    Below is a section from a McKay piece in todays Irish Times on the play. McKay lets go completely unchallenged the assertion by Brighton, the plays producer, that Catholics in west Belfast have no inkling of what living in fear of paramilitaries in their midst is like.

    One of the flyers for the play is headed with the question, “Would you like to know what it is like to live in a loyalist area?” West Belfast Catholics fear the UDA because it assassinated so many of them, but Brighton insists they have no first-hand experience of the fear of paramilitaries from within their own community.
    “People here wouldn’t understand that fear Gary describes, a fear that has got into the soul,” Brighton says firmly. “It is totally different here. There are no parallels.”

  • Garibaldy

    EBL,

    Remarkable stuff.

  • John Maynard

    Isn’t Pam Brighton English?
    And isn’t her son Sinn Fein’s press officer? (Correct me if I’m wrong).

  • Peking

    I feel deeply sorry for Gary Mitchell and his family for the way they were treated by the UDA scum in Rathcoole. But can he not see that these people are just playing to his ego and using him to reinforce their own manuafactured stereotypes of all things unionist and Protestant.

  • Carson’s Cat

    I think F_D makes a very valid point about assumptions being made of what unionist/loyalist/orange responses would be to this play.

    I’ve heard no-one comment on the play or anything to do with it.

    Even Mitchell himself doesnt (AFAIK) label the whole of the UDA with opposition to him. I read somewhere about him saying that it seems to be a Rathcoole/North Belfast specific thing given that the UDA in that area prevented filming taking place in North Belfast or Rathcoole for one of his projects but the UDA in East Belfast had no problems with it. (I wont enter into the debate as to why an organisation like that can ‘prevent’ someone from filming but simply to point out that it doesnt seem to be a UDA wide thing).

    I dont think its that surprising though that an anti-UDA film is welcomed in West Belfast. I’d imagine that an anti-IRA film made by someone who was born in Crossmaglen, grew up there, had relatives in the IRA, and was now subject to a threat from the South Armagh Brigade, would probably find a relatively warm reception in unionist areas.

    To suggest that no Catholic living in a republican area has anything to fear from paramilitaries is simply fantasy which unfortunately does seem to go unchallenged for some reason.

    It is very difficult in these debates to stay away from playing the (wo)man, but there are occasions where the person who has written the article clearly does have prejudices which become clearly exposed.

    It is a bit of a shame too that someone with the talents of Gary Mitchell seems to focus all of his NI based plays on the UDA. I know that its particularly relavent to where he grew up and his experiences, but someone like him could make a much stronger impact with plays focussing on other aspects of the unionist/loyalist experience, positive and negative.

  • Oilbhéar Chromaill

    John Maynard has some brass neck.

    In one post he writes about Susan McKay and claims her article – not a review FD as the play has yet to be staged and a review normally follows rather than precedes the premiere – is one: which “reveals some rather clichéd prejudice in itself’.

    And his very next post he writes, without a hint of self doubt: ‘Isn’t Pam Brighton English?
    And isn’t her son Sinn Fein’s press officer? (Correct me if I’m wrong).”

    What’s that got to do with the price of fish? Is Pam’s artistic reputation to be off set against her nationality in this case? Is her son’s job to be off set similarily?

    Talk about prejudice!

  • slug

    I never play the man or woman.

    I would agree that her presumptions seem out of touch.

  • Peking

    “And isn’t her son Sinn Fein’s press officer? (Correct me if I’m wrong).”
    What’s that got to do with the price of fish?”

    I would say it has a hell of a lot to do with informing her hopelessly daft contention that, ““People here wouldn’t understand that fear Gary describes, a fear that has got into the soul,” Brighton says firmly. “It is totally different here. There are no parallels.”

    Has she never heard of the McCartney sisters and their brother? To mention but one of many.

  • Peking

    Another point to be made is that Susan, who has written extensively in support of the McCartneys, didn’t say to her, “Catch yourself on”.
    It is perefctly feasible that she just left it in deliberately knowing how ridiculous an assertion it appear.

  • harpo

    ‘Ball please Bertie!’

    Mick:

    What did Bertie do to be warned to stick to the ball?

    Did you edit it out?

    If you didn’t edit anything out I don’t see what your objection is.

    All he said was that the woman annoyed the hell out of him.

  • John Maynard

    Thank you Peking – that was exactly the point of my question, and personally I think it lets Pam Brighton off the hook if her claims are based more on ignorance than partisan propagandising.

    I never said anything about her son’s nationality being a factor in his job. I do wonder, however, if her son’s job is a factor in Pam Brighton’s belief that only Protestants experience fear of paramilitaries.

  • harpo

    ‘may well draw accusations that he is a traitor’

    beano:

    Any actual examples of these accusations, or do you just presume they must be there because that’s what you start off thinking?

    You’ve done what McKay did – make a lazy assumption. If you have no examples of it you are just basing what you say on your assupmtion that unionists or loyalists feel this way.

    If no one says anything about this guy then you can’t draw conclusions about what people think of him from that silence. The same goes for Alan McBride. I doubt that many Londonderry unionists would go to any Bloody Sunday lecture, so when they don’t turn up to hear Alan McBride either I don’t see how anyone can draw any conclusion from that.

  • The Dog

    There is a notion that what goes on in Loylist areas and republican areas is the same.

    Two sides of the same coin. BUt that is B**ls.

    This is not just lazy it ignores the reality about how both communities arrived at where they are today.

    What is interesting is that bringing this play to West Belfast allows people to examine the differences.

    There is common denominator and it is poverty, lack of aspiration, unemployment.

    However, I do not think that there is any correlation between the way that some Loyalist paramilitaries act within some parts of the north such as North Belfast and the way the IRA acts in somewhere like West Belfast.

    The attempt to say they are the same comes largely from SDLP types who want it to be the same to suit their own political agenda and unionists who want it to be the same because it suits an agenda but if you engage with many working class unionists they would tell you different. Many allude to a fear that just doesn’t exist in West Belfast for example. Many also cry out for the sort of positive leadership that republicans give within their own communities.

    It is interesting that John picked up on the nationality of Pam BRighton and alluded to the possibility that her son – who I presume is also English – being a Sinn Féin press officer. So what?

    What does that prove. That there are English republicans. That republicanism is comfortable with English people. I also understand that the son in question may be of jewish decent and that there may even be an English Sinn Féin councillor and, shock horror, possibly even a few Protestants in Sinn Féin. Big Deal.