West Belfast: eastern Europe without perestroika or glasnost…

Pól Ó Muirí is a blogger now as well as a columnist in the Belfast Telegraph and ‘eagarthóir’ of Irish language in the Irish Times. He even wrote for the Andersonstown News when at University. Over at El Matador he gives his view of what has happened to his old community in West Belfast. It’s a story of decline that could be matched with the loss of traditional authority right across the English speaking world. Indeed, he might be speaking about Walton or Scotland Road in Liverpool in the eighties. Except that he blames a new political hegemony he believes has politically sponsored the decline.

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  • I read El Blogador’s personal genesis of West Belfast. It was indeed very intersting to see such nostalgia from someone who came of age in such dangerous and tumultuous times. His later assessment of the neighborhood today seems a bit dramatic though. Does he think it was better when he was a child, honestly? Does he wish his children could grow up on the Falls Road of today or 30 years ago?

  • URQUHART

    Good man PO’M. This is something that has puzzled me for a long time.

    I have often wondered how SF get away with constantly pointing to the fact that West Belfast is at the top of all sorts of shit hole indices, without the people ever pausing to wonder at the correlation between this fact and the fact that Sinn Fein have dictated the pace of politics there for so long.

    SF’s great triumph has been in perpetuating the ‘nationalists as oppressed minority’ myth in a constituency that votes c. 90% nationalist and returns 5 SF MLAs!

    Going forward, it might not be so rosy: People can’t prefer bilingual interpretive centres to a real economy forever.

    Also, it is inconceivable that Fianna Fail will be as ineffective in West Belfast as the SDLP has unfortunately been since the departure of Joe Hendron.

  • Mark McGregor
  • Dec

    Whilst no-one could question O’Muirí ‘Westie’ credentials (especially after he spends 90% of the article listing them), there’s more than a whiff of goose and gander here – “the provos blamed everyone else, but sure it was all their fault”. It’ll play well with the BT types, but doesn’t stand up to any real scrutiny amongst people who a) remember the alternative ‘Authority’ on offer: the B specials, UDR, Internment, the Falls Curfew, the RUC, etc and b) anyone who lives in North Belfast (for example) where the same Republican-hegemony did not exist.

  • kensei

    I find it difficult to pin on SF a pattern that has been repeated across the Western world. To repeat my post from that thread:

    “The Provos blame the Brits, the police, everyone else – but they should blame themselves. They have destroyed all authority in the area – that of parent, teacher and cleric – to achieve their political goals. They now control everything and have ruined everything.”

    Yeah, because these types of issues in working class areas are restricted to Republicans areas in the North. It’s nonsense. Decline in respect for authority is an affliction of the modern age, whether it’s in Belfast or London or Dublin.

    If anything, the Provos were the Authority in the area, I heard complaints of people taking drink off underage drinkers and telling them to “collect it at the SF office” if they had a problem. Without the fear of the IRA, even they become susceptible to it.

    None of the MPs have had any real influence on these types of things, and all have basically had limited power. In terms of getting money for the area, SF representation has probably done as well as any, and in the West Belfast Festival they’ve built something to be really proud of.

    It’s a difficult problem, and one that isn’t easy to solve. I favour some application of broken window theory and devolving some money and power to the local community to be response for. But blaming the Provos is a really inadequate response.

  • Sir Herbert Mercer

    It’s normal politics :Sinn Fein know west belfast is theirs no matter what, so don’t waste any resources on it. Same thing happens in England… remember when they wanted to close hospitals and got out maps to make sure they weren’t in marginal constituencies, so went for ones in safe tory or safe labour areas

  • Simmarian

    While Pol’s west belfast credentials are not in question, it seems that a lot of us look back with a rather different view of the reality. I was a contemporary of Pol at school, and lived reasonably close to him. I, like him, grew up – “up the road”, in a reasonably comfortable part of andytown. If i was being honest, we lived in an aspiring middle class district, where your parents didn’t talk of the “conflict”, and that “those” things only went on “down the road”, where they had come from ,and wanted away from, but still needed the perceived safety of west belfast in those difficult times. My parents also expressed their nationalism, in a quiet way, and promoting the irish language was one of those ways. Support for the SDLP among aspiring middle class familes was also common, as it was in my family home. However, as we walked to scouts(different scouts for me), to the chippy and to the leisure centre for a swim and all was rosy, as are so many memories, we tend to forget the assaults by the british army on teenagers walking up the road, the stopping and searching kids on their way to school, and in my case, a brutal attack by the army and watched over by police, all because i had the same surname as a well known republican. I was 14. The walks to the chip shop just wern’t the same after that. The issues of increasing anti-social behaviour are not limited to west belfast, and are certainly not the fault of Sinn Fein. They are universal problems that exist in many parts of the world. My children today are better off than i was. Yes, they need to take care of themselves in a whole new range of ways, but it beats not having to think that the next car driving by, is going to slow down and a gunman is going to shoot you because of which church/school you go to. Does Pol not remember that telling someone his name, school he went to, outside of west belfast, was to be avoided at all times? (as my parents pleaded with me on many occasions). To think that all was well under joe hendron and gery fitt, is just plain “shite”.

    Ni mar a siltear a bhitear

  • Sean Fear

    “I have often wondered how SF get away with constantly pointing to the fact that West Belfast is at the top of all sorts of shit hole indices, without the people ever pausing to wonder at the correlation between this fact and the fact that Sinn Fein have dictated the pace of politics there for so long.”

    Precisely the same thing would be true of any area that is dominated by loyalist paramilitaries. Private sector activity becomes impossible, due to extortion, and anyone who can afford to move out does so.

  • Mick Fealty

    The part of Pól’s recollection that I recall with greatest vividness was the Cumann Chluain Ard. It was either full of life, or dead as door nail. It was something of a haven of peace and civility even as there was some pretty desperate things happening outside. Even British soldiers who came in from time to time were treated with a certain cool civility whatever their business.

    Over a four year period I took several Unionist friends there without the least difficulty. The one time I saw someone break out in a cold sweat was a sticky friend from colleagues who’d had several friends killed in the seventies feud.

    I agree with those who say that West Belfast is suffering the same kind of disconnect that is found in working class communities across the west. The killing of young Rhys Jones in Croxteth or the drive by killing of Charlene Ellis and Latisha Shakespear in Birmingham come to mind.

    But I think what is underneath the surface is thirty years of bad blood arising from the operation of an illegal army within the community (and all the stresses and strains that that entails) as much as anything to do with the political or even cultural end of ‘the project’. Though, perhaps regrettably, the defining line between them is not always as obvious to folk outside the movement as it seems to be to those on the inside.

    In that particular context I might be cheeky and suggest Ní bhítear mar a siltear.

  • I have lived in West Belfast though I didn’t grow up there as Pól Ó Muirí did. His picture of Eastern Europe without the glasnost or perestroika doesn’t describe West Belfast at all. This idea about a party line is ridiculous – sure there’s a dominant political party in West Belfast and it’s Sinn Féin but he’s only kidding himself if he thinks people don’t question SF and often about what they’ve done for the place lately. However bad SF is, they won’t vote for the SDLP because the SDLP is represented these days by people who have to import their party workers from the south. (That may sound rich coming from me but that’s what the SDLP in West Belfast is reduced to post the Hendron era.)

    As for his choice of material not to read, that’s his loss.

    If the truth were told, I think that the only one following a party line is poor Pól himself, with his McCarthy-ite ‘greens under every bed’ attitude.

    PS – Didn’t he used to write for Lá too? Or is he unable to get over the particular mental block he has about mentioning the Irish language daily newspaper by name. If he were to read that, he might discover that there’s a far heatlhier debate going about SF’s non performance on Irish language issues than he’s prepared to recognise.

    It was interesting to read the Irish Times editorial on Monday and its gushing tones in praise of Ian Paisley to the exclusion of Martin McGuinness. Paisley is the ‘central figure’ according to the Times. Really? That’s wishful thinking getting translated into the paper of record. That’s what I call the party line and Pól O Muirí follows it like a tame three legged poodle.

  • Outsider

    Whilst no-one could question O’Muirí ‘Westie’ credentials (especially after he spends 90% of the article listing them.

    Dec

    That was the best line of the week for me.

  • Dec

    The part of Pól’s recollection that I recall with greatest vividness was the Cumann Chluain Ard. It was either full of life, or dead as door nail.

    But always ready to serve booze to 16 year old schoolboys, with a bit of Irish about them. hence my patronage circa the mid to late 80s.

  • Mick Fealty

    Lower and Upper Sixth by any chance Dec?

  • gaelgannaire

    Mick,

    CCA’s strict non-politity probably stems as much from seeking to avoid feuds and to remain a neutral haven than striving to remain seen as a place for both sides of the community, though that is a clear and welcome by-product which continues to this day.

    Strict rules curtailing clerical involment also have helped the Irish language movement which originated out of it no end.

  • Mick Fealty

    gg,

    The bringing of people from other communities was the easy bit. And the big guy was okay inside there. He was afraid for his life of coming back to an area he’d grown up in and left ten years earlier.

  • Garibaldy

    Mick,

    Doesn’t that story say something about the nature of the grip on the area? Outsiders are tolerated, as it is regarded as legitimate for them to have different views. Those from within who oppose the dominant force are liable to be treated much more hostiley, and often violently. That pattern is thankfully reducing, but was true for much of the last two or three decades.

  • wild turkey

    On a day when some newspapers have articles about the INCREASING rate of human evolution this thread is, umh, interesting. In other news…

    West Belfast is not the center of six counties
    Northern Ireland is not the center of this Island
    This Island is not the center of Europe
    Europe, in spite of its many WARS, is not the center of planet earth.
    Planet earth is not the center of the solar system.
    The solar system is not the center of the galaxy.
    The galaxy is not the center of the universe.

    Issues of civic responsbility, comportment and behaviour are in no way unique to West Belfast. ( And yes,at this point I have prayed for the soul and family of Mr Holland… but that is a personal action)

    What does seem central here is an Incestuous, Self-Apsorbtion. Once the political problem here is solved, this sliver of the planet will slink off to mere insignificance.

    And here, regardless of political belief, opinion or persuasion… that pisses off a lot of people… and as god’s chosen many, it probably should.

    A Vicious Crowd.. perhaps?

  • Dec

    Mick

    Yes. Gloine uisce bheatha agus líomanáid, le do thoil.

  • Chris Donnelly

    A truly pathetic piece of writing- essentially boiling down to stating that Sinn Fein is to blame for all of modern society’s ills as visited upon the people of west Belfast.

    No wonder he’s aligned to the SDLP.

    It neatly encapsulates just why the SDLP have failed to make any impact upon the nationalist electorate beyond a small number of areas of the six counties in the past decade.

    Sinn Fein to blame for demise of deferential era to authority?? Straight out of the Norman Tebbit school of tabloid assertions, that one.

    Maybe Sinn Fein are to blame for suicides in Tigers Bay, rioting in Bangor and the lack of a city centre in Craigavon as well, Pol?

    As a fellow Simmarian, I too have many memories of west Belfast over the past twenty years. Whilst people today are impatient for anti-social behaviour to be tackled in an effective manner (and many, shooting from the hip, even calling for a return of kneecappings and beatings in newspaper vox pops and casual conversation) it is patently absurd to suggest that west Belfast today isn’t a better place than it was 20 years ago.

    Just take a drive along the Falls Road and see the transformation of the area that has taken place in a matter of 15-20 years.

    Now, that will, of course, not have impacted on everybody’s lives, but it sure as hell has made a difference to quite a number of people.

    Those who seek to dismiss the residents of west Belfast as basically ignorant fools for continuing to support Sinn Fein are as guilty of a lazy sectarian mindset as anyone who would suggest that protestants in north Down/ east Belfast/ East Derry- and many places besides- are fools for continuing to support unionist politicians.

    O’Muiri’s rather shallow analysis typifies the SDLP mindset which has led to their party in west Belfast being reduced to rump status.

    It also ignores the fact that the west Belfast electorate are quite adept at altering their voting patterns if they do not believe their political representatives are acting in their best interests.

    The fact that they have yet to do so in a manner suiting O’Muiri says it all.

    btw The Malone Road remark made me particularly laugh; I know of only one Sinn Fein member in west Belfast residing in that part of town (and fair play to him, by the way.) But what would that have to do with anything? If living with your electorate is O’Muiri’s benchmark, than Sinn Fein representatives would win that contest hands down across the north.

  • Mick Fealty

    Aye, right Dec! “Dhá pionta Guinness agus paicéad Cheese and Onion” more like! 😉

    As for West Belfast, through this discussion at least, it is beginning to resemble the moral of John Godfrey Saxe’s poem The Blind Men and the Elephant.

  • DC

    “O’Muiri’s rather shallow analysis typifies the SDLP mindset which has led to their party in west Belfast being reduced to rump status.”

    And while your take on the SDLP’s demise may not be true the electoral patterns do tell the truth but then the issue that O’Muiri is making is one that SF represents something the SDLP doesn’t or will never have the chance to represent in its current state. Namely, a bankrupt micro-society tortured and ruptured by following too blindly many a misleading ‘truth’ created for the perpetuation of party political progress.

    Where is this progress on the ground is all we ask.

    What shall Sinn Fein give in return for so much?

  • But I think what is underneath the surface is thirty years of bad blood arising from the operation of an illegal army within the community (and all the stresses and strains that that entails) as much as anything to do with the political or even cultural end of ‘the project’.

    I know of only one army which operated illegally in west Belfast – the one whose soldiers wore a uniform and got paid by MOD. I presume that it’s the British Army you’re talking about….

  • DC

    Regardless of the active agents what is stated is true.

    Today was spent sitting down with a friend at City Hall. We talked about Belfast and the real unattached feel that seems to be still there yet changes are happening at youth level.

    We made mention of the fact of when growing up Belfast was a dash-in and dash-out town, easily walked around and no hanging about for obvious reasons.

    Agreement was reached on this and the social attitudes of our elders are similar in that they don’t fancy Belfast as a night venue to eat in for example. They are conditioned from years of suspicion over Belfast as a social hub.

    This mindset can easily be extrapolated into west Belfast life except much more intensely is what seems to be suggested.

  • Chris Donnelly

    Namely, a bankrupt micro-society tortured and ruptured by following too blindly many a misleading ‘truth’ created for the perpetuation of party political progress.

    Oh dear!
    Question: Why do you vote Sinn Fein?
    Answer: I’m tortured, blind and bankrupt.
    Ahh, now I see it- head shaking (apologies to PB.)

    Mick
    You may try to play down what O’Muiri is at, but if a similar article was written about protestant communities, oh let’s say in Derry, you would be the very first to suggest that adopting such a dismissive line was not only ignorant but a large part of the problem in this society.

  • DC

    Thanks CD for your sardonic response. To be fair the same can also be said from many unionists who too question the approach taken over the years by those in never-never land.

    The disengagement and associated rumbles are beginning to happen now the remaining guns are pointed downwards and the others supposedly decommissioned.

  • The Raven

    I’m not from West Belfast, but I did have the good fortune to have a lot of friends there, so I spent a lot of time there.

    I’m originally an East Belfast Prod, but I live oop North now. I’m in Belfast a lot…I think the place looks great this year. But I do identify with a lot of the points that Pól makes in his blog. A lot them are equally relevant to the East of the city.

    The warmth that many of these communities had – on both sides of the divide – is gone. Glass and steel, depreciable over a 25 year period stand where brick, depreciable over 100 years once stood.

    Much that was wrong with the squalor of the city – the reason for the “shitty indices” mentioned earlier – has gone. But with it, the sense of community has gone too. I am equally at fault in terms of looking back with some elements of nostalgia; admittedly, my nostalgia doesn’t have the same whiff of cordite about it.

    From my early days in East Belfast, one person still lives at the end of the street in Ballyhack, and I occasionally call with her to catch up on gossip. Chains on the door. Panic button installed. Strand of razor wire across the yard at the back fitted by her son. I don’t remember these in any of the houses when “i was wee”.

    I don’t know if Pól is right when he lays the blame at the door of Sinn Fein, even though I feel a wry smile coming on when I read about dachas and country retreats – a phenomenon not just peculiar to republican politicos. But something has gone badly wrong in parts of the city; those who lived there through the worst of times are by no means getting to experience the best of them…

  • Mark McGregor

    Chris,

    It is clear that Pól has very much declared for the SDLP and I find him an articulate addition to ElB, which I had ceased reading, but his basic point is very much the same as that made by Squinter and I find it hard to believe he is operating to an anti-SF agenda.

    Sometimes criticism can be legitimate regardless of who gives it.

    Now the Stormont administration is reestablished and SF are co-equal senior partners can we at least accept that as from March responsibility for quality of lives there, and pretty much everywhere, is SF’s and that is how the electorate should judge them?

    With power (of sorts) comes responsibility?

  • UFB

    Reading O’Muiri’s remark about the SF “officer class” buying houses on the Malone Rd did indeed bring a wry smile to my lips.

    The only political representative that I can think of that’s swapped the place where “so many just vote for Sinn Féin without thinking” for a shiny new plush apartment in a tree lined exclusive Malone Rd avenue is a certain MLA and former Belfast City Councillor. Wonder how his brother feels after being left to carry the can for the absentee MLA?

    Strange how his article skipped over that.

    In terms of Pol’s icredible arrogance surrounding the ability of the WB electorate being able to think for themselves, they do and will. Just ask uncle Joe, [pity he is a genuinely nice guy], who occupied the seat for a while in the early ’90’s.

    O’Muiri seems to have a touch of Malachi O’Dochertyitis as someone whose not shy about using their formative years in WB to further their professional position yet has a massive superiority complex regarding its populace and pathological loathing of the place because of the particular political party the electorate choose to represente them.

  • Chris Donnelly

    Mark
    Absolutely; people rightly would have expected political reps to get about the business of representing their electorates, regardless of whether the administration was up and running at Stormont.

    I fail, however, to see the legitimacy of his criticism, premised as it is on the belief that republicans are to blame for pensioners being afraid to walk the streets in Ross Road.

    I note how O’Muiri freely admits to having virtually no connection with the area nowadays, beyond the odd conversation with family members and/ or friends.

    On such a basis, am I equally qualified to declare that Ballymena is a drug-infested, sectarian bearpit whose residents are blinded and traumatised by their commitment to a demagogic figure- oh, and aunty Bess tells me they’re all afraid to go out at night!

    Such an analysis ignores the much wider demise of the era of deference and respect for authority, and lazily attempts to pin it on Sinn Fein ’cause the locals don’t vote for Pol’s party of choice.

    As The Raven points illustrates, we can all indulge in a bout of ‘things ain’t like they used to be’- and with much justification.

    But let’s call it for what it is.

  • Mark McGregor

    btw: with the Eastern Europe feed line to this thread and Pól’s piece, I’m currently watching a documentary on BBC4 on the children’s homes in Bulgaria. If thats what ‘perestroika or glasnost’ gets you I’ll take West Belfast any day. I’ve never cried while watching a documentary on West Belfast.

  • The Raven

    Chris – you have alerted me to the fact that I hit the submit button without doing the full cut-and-paste from Wordpad. I left out:

    “…but let’s not allow the rose-tinted glasses blind us as to how far we have come – and how far we have yet to go.”

    Like I say, I have no long-standing history IN the area in question, and therefore, I will leave the political aspect of this discussion to those in the know.

  • URQUHART

    “I have often wondered how SF get away with constantly pointing to the fact that West Belfast is at the top of all sorts of shit hole indices, without the people ever pausing to wonder at the correlation between this fact and the fact that Sinn Fein have dictated the pace of politics there for so long.”

    Precisely the same thing would be true of any area that is dominated by loyalist paramilitaries. Private sector activity becomes impossible, due to extortion, and anyone who can afford to move out does so.

    Posted by Sean Fear on Dec 11, 2007 @ 06:00 PM”

    Exactly Sean Fear, but the difference is that in those loyalist areas, the loyalist paramilitaries do not enjoy political support. The failure of the UUP over many years and the failure of the DUP so far to be bothered to make a positive impact in these pockets of deprivation is a topic for seperate discussion.

  • URQUHART

    “I fail, however, to see the legitimacy of his criticism” – Chris Donnelly

    That doesn’t come as a major surprise Chris.

  • Mick Fealty

    Chris,

    Far from playing it down, I’m suggesting that he’s as right as you are about West Belfast.

    Critics have a tough time explaining away the real popularity of Sinn Féin. It’s clearly not fake since it gets proven over and over again. Rightly or wrongly the success of Gerry Adams and his party is a source of much local pride. And there are numerous examples of social entrepreneurship that many from other parts of the city quietly admire and wish they could emulate in their own communities (Féile an Phobal being just one of many examples).

    But there is fear and loathing aplenty in the place too. I cannot think of anywhere else were a major feud involving over 600 incidents, including the attempted (possibly successful) demolition of a dwelling house by JCB in a place the size of Ballymurphy which has been given such little coverage in the wider media.

    As I’ve said a few times in this thread already, much of what has been wrong about West Belfast (it’s not a socially homogeneous) is generic to the decline of the working class across the west. Indeed much of the efforts of Republican activists in the early days were brave attempts to stem the flow of skilled and unskilled jobs there were away from the area.

    Patricia Craig in her extracts from The Rannafast Summer, carried in Irish Pages last year is well worth reading:

    “Parts of the road were semi urban, though its core was anything but; it was rich in local lore and indigenous repartee, and harboured a fraternity of the self taught whose spiritual home was the fusty public library on the corner of Sevastopol Street. Catholicism and nationalism pervaded the air it generated – with the odd gust of socialism just to keep things polemical. Religion and its rituals shaped the life of the area: Sunday Masses, Holidays of Obligation, evening devotions, weekly confessions, Men’s Confraternity meetings, Children of Mary, May altars, Corpus Christi processions, the family rosary and what-have-you. Dominican convent was only one of a score of religious buildings dotted along the road, though its elevated position – pace The Ulster Examiner – enabled it to take a haughty view of itself.”

    That’s the Falls I, vaguely, remember from my sixties’ childhood. What blew most of it away was the tumult of ’69 and the ‘war’ of the following thirty years, along with a wider drift from the church towards secularism. Craig also reckons its collective identity was forged between the 1890s and the 1940s: “sixty odd years of fearsome privations, raucousness, clan-solidarity and disaffection”.

    I guess Pól is challenging the quality of Sinn Féin’s leadership and asking whether the party is genuinely taking its people out those historical privations or perpetuating them, as well questioning the effects of the party’s democratic centralism on the largest single population on the island where it pre-dominates.

  • brendan,belfast

    I won’t stick my west Belfast credientials up on a flagpole before replying, and i have to say i found Pol’s piece actually quite moving. When i return now to visit elderly relatives i am saddened beyond belief at what has become of ‘my hometown’.

    I often wondered how exactly SF have not been held politically to account for the stagnation which has undermined the community of WB for decades. For all but 5 years Gerry Adams has been MP since 1983 – 1983! – and the best we get is protest politics and whining about the Brits. And of course the odd stratehgy / review / masterplan thrown in for good measure.

    Why did political representatives in West Belfast allow the A’Town barracks issue to even become an issue? In Derry the Stoops ddemanded – and got – Fort George and Ebrington donated for community / economic use. In A’Town the community gets white line protests. How can you attract economic investment to the lower Falls when it is dominated by murals of Turkish bloody hunger strikers and ETA?!

    When i started work in Casement a pint was £0.49, on my first night there it was robbed at gunpoint by the freedom fighters in balaclavas. just saying.

  • gaelgannaire

    Mick,

    I remember someone started a thread on politics.ie – ‘should Fine Gael have won the election?’.

    I cannot fathom how anyone would question democracy so blatantly, but I think there is a resonance here also.

    We live in a newly born partially functional semi-democracy. Far from perfect, but alot better than the meritocracy I feel is oft implied in the writings of journalists like Ó Muirí and O’Doherty for example. If these people had a real alternative to Sinn Féin in West Belfast they would stand for election, but they don’t and they don’t.

    Of course, it is their role to critisce, not to come up with solutions. But I feel uncomfortable with what I feel is the entitlement that some self appointed members of the ‘intelligensia’ (sic?) to disrespect the views of the ‘proles’.

    They may not like it but they must respect it. Sinn Féin do not stop anyone from standing againist them. They do not stop people from voting againist them.

    The simple fact is that Sinn Féin represent the views and aspirations of the vast majority in West Belfast, of that their can be no doubt.

    Malachi O’Doherty for example does not share in those aspirations but that is his choice, he cannot fault the people of the West for that.

    I myself feel that it is a great pity, in the intersests of democracy and the health of the commumnity, that more effective alternatives are not available, but there is not, at least not in terms of electoral politics.

    But for example, Seán Mitchell I feel did well for a teenager (?) in the recent elections. I feel he made a mistake however in not producing his material bilingually (apart from at the big march), his team felt that it what alienate unionists.

    But many feel that for a buachaill born and reared on Bóthar Seoighe that that was an error in that he could have brought out 2000 votes for himself if he played on his background and used the language, but he chose not to. He didnt get elected.

  • kensei

    “I often wondered how exactly SF have not been held politically to account for the stagnation which has undermined the community of WB for decades. For all but 5 years Gerry Adams has been MP since 1983 – 1983! – and the best we get is protest politics and whining about the Brits. And of course the odd stratehgy / review / masterplan thrown in for good measure.”

    Exactly what Executive power has the MP had to do anything in that time? Squat.

  • DC

    “is oft implied in the writings of journalists like Ó Muirí and O’Doherty for example. If these people had a real alternative to Sinn Féin in West Belfast they would stand for election, but they don’t and they don’t.”

    But to stand requires money which SF has in abundance through various sources some of which brings in readies that advocates of democracy could only ever wish to have in a bid to advance democracy towards a new direction.

  • gaelgannaire

    DC,

    The deposit for the assembly election, according to my 3 second internet search is £150.

    Perhaps beyond the reach of the unemployed but not of anyone on a wage.

    All political parties have to fund raise, in many ways it is the first measure of popularity.

  • Mick Fealty

    gg,

    Are you suggesting that a journalist has no right to criticise a politician/political party without standing for election?

    I’ve a huge aversion to Daily Mail (‘what’s he done wrong?’) journalism, but the day that people taking large chunks of public money to do (as ken so succinctly puts it) ‘squat’ cannot be held to account outside the elective space is probably the day to pack ones bags and leave town.

  • brendan,belfast

    Kensei “Exactly what Executive power has the MP had to do anything in that time? Squat”

    so what? does that stop any MP who is not in Government working for their area? didn’t stop Hume or more latterly Durkan in Derry scoring on disused army barracks while the Shinners lined the roads with placards.

    i think it is a problem when the MP for the area is so committed to leading a cause that he neglects his constituency. If even Robin Livingstone can concede that point after all these years then thats progress.

  • kensei

    “so what? does that stop any MP who is not in Government working for their area? didn’t stop Hume or more latterly Durkan in Derry scoring on disused army barracks while the Shinners lined the roads with placards.

    i think it is a problem when the MP for the area is so committed to leading a cause that he neglects his constituency. If even Robin Livingstone can concede that point after all these years then thats progress. ”

    SF seem to have done as well as any in terms of pulling in money for the area; and they have setup the Feile, among other things, as Mick points out.

    But they are powerless, like all the other parties here, to do much about any of the things mentioned here in a direct fashion.

  • gaelgannaire

    Mick,

    I am not saying that at all.

    What I am saying is that whilst it is their job to question politics, political parties etc. I feel that some fail to give enough respect to the wishes of the people which is dismissed unfairly as the wishes of unthinking sheep. I have never met anyone who was unthinking.

    But, if a ‘writer / columnist’ strays into questioning the legitamacy of people’s democratic choices, on the basis of some sort of communal physcosis, brain washing or just plain stupidity, then yes, I would like to see them put their cards on the table.

  • The quality of the SF leadership is tested every time they stand for election whereas Ó Muirí has only to pass the test of whether or not he’s republican/West Belfast bashing to get his tuppence worth past a features editor. As with his Irish language journalism, one gets the impression that no progress was made since the time he was going about in short pants.

    It seems to me, from reading the likes of Ó Muirí and O’Doherty, a far superior writer, that there’s a nice handy living to be made out of dissing your own in public, particularly if it happens to be a SF ‘stronghold’. Cúl le cine is what I call it.

  • OC-

    “I know of only one army which operated illegally in west Belfast – the one whose soldiers wore a uniform and got paid by MOD.”

    Ach there were a few knocking about that matched that description. Nice berets they wore too. These days some of them continue to be paid by the British Government, albeit through more ‘maintream’ methods.

  • Mick Fealty

    Oili,

    Louis de Paor’s translates his own use of that phrase in his poem Oidhreacht as ‘black sheep’, it’s worth reading in either language. Any society/community that cannot brook the opinion of its own black sheep is in bigger trouble than it cares to admit.

  • I think West Belfast has little problem brooking the opinions, half baked and ill informed as they are so very obviously, of the likes of Pól Ó Muirí. His audience isn’t the people of West Belfast but more the editors and other hacks to whom this kind of hackneyed tripe appeals. His opinions are so far from the reality that they say more about his own failure on the glasnost front than anything else.

    Louis de Paor, now there’s a poet….

  • URQUHART

    Kensei “Exactly what Executive power has the MP had to do anything in that time? Squat”

    An interesting insight into why SF have got away with doing nothing with the huge mandate given to them in West Belfast. For your info Kensei, for all those years, the MP for the area would have had the same lobbying powers (Possibly more given his celeb status) than all the other MPs in NI if only he could have been arsed to do the job.

    Hume in Foyle, Mc Grady in South Down, Paisley in North Antrim – none of these guys had executive authority but did much to attract investment to their areas.

    Your defence that Sinn Fein has managed to get funding for the Feile is very depressing. As I said earlier, Bi-lingual community arts projects that support the ruling party’s politics are grand, but they’re a very poor substitute for highly skilled jobs and proper infrastructure.

    The fact that Robin Livingstone is beginning to call them on this stuff should be worrying them.

    But I suspect it isn’t.

  • Mick Hall

    It is interesting that no one has mentioned the fact that Gerry Adams will not sit in Westminister due to SF policy of abstentionism, whilst I believe he is correct it this, it must play a significant role in his inability to carry out pork barreling activities at Westminister. As these often involve making deals with MPs from other constituencies, i e you support me in getting X into my constituency and I will scratch your back at a later date.

    Having said this, Mick I believe you are mistaken about the glory days of the working class, as by and large they passed west Belfast by. Male mass unemployment was a fact of life for decades within that area as was poverty. Social solidarity of the type I think Pól Ó Muirí is writing about came about because people shared what ‘little’ they had, times have changed.

    He is also not only wrong about people voting for SF without a thought in their head and I might add bloody insulting. Funny how he never mentioned that the same people he looks down his nose at voted Gerry Adams out and the good doctor in, perhaps he should question why they then voted Adams back in.

    When people vote for a Tory or Unionist over and over again we never here the type of criticism i e these people cannot think for themselves. It is only when us workers return the same party to power or parliament. This type of crap is pure middle class prejudice and is based on blind arrogance and ignorance. Because the likes of Pól Ó Muirí does not vote SF, he has to kid himself that those who do must do so because they are stupid or being intimidated. what joker.

    Yes SF must do better, but to be fair to them they have been up against a great deal of opposition from within the UK state and the local bureaucracy. However as they ‘some how believe’ the party is now in power they will now have to produce the goods or they will be replaced by the SDLP or eirigi .

  • I wonder if Ó Muirí went to South Down or North Antrim, would he similarily question the voters’ intelligence, given that both constituencies have seen the domination of a single MP for a number of terms. Doubtful. Ó Muirí’s article is prompted by his own sense of loathing of all things he perceives as green and SF republican. I hold no brief for SF but I view with distaste Ó Muiri’s semi literate attempts to paint everyone with the same brush. If he was as keen as promoting diversity of opinion at the Belfast Telegraph or the Irish Times, he would be more credible.

  • Mick Fealty

    Here’s a thing Oili.

    If, I presume, means that he hasn’t done either of those things. That would suggest that you are in the process of rather guilelessly constructing a Straw Man. Or, put another way, making a calculated attempt to misrepresent your opponent’s position.

    If you can’t challenge his argument in the particular, then don’t start with the ad hominem stuff.

    This particularly important in your case since it could trigger a second ban, and we ban IP addresses these days. It’s a highly regrettable form of action which can lead to some very embarrassing conversations with work colleagues.

    I know of one office in Dublin which contacted us with a request to unban them, but when we could not find a match between their current IP addresses and the ones on our black list they remain to my knowledge unable to access Slugger.

    In the meantime, play on. Just try to make some passing contact with the ball!!

  • steve

    Mick
    By running this opinion piece does the man not become the ball?

    Surely if you want to forward yourself as part of your article and your opinion as fact then surely you become the ball?

    And some one else’s opinion of you would be a legitimate response

  • Chris Donnelly

    Brendan

    Bad example re Andytown Barracks, given that the decision to go with the Carvill Group was made by an SDLP Minister (Ritchie.)

    Secondly, if we are to make the mistake of judging the performance of political leaderships by the deprivation indices, then I’m afraid the combined efforts of SDLP MPs Hume and Durkan amount to little, given the predominance of Foyle SOAs/ wards on the list of most deprived wards today.

    Mick
    Regarding the toleration of ‘black sheep,’ the people of west Belfast have long displayed a tolerance of such opinions, and annually provide a platform for such people- and unionists- to articulate these viewpoints through discussions and debates at the Feile.

    It’s a pity that O’Muiri avoids reading the Andersonstown News these days as the variety of opinions on offer, reflecting sentiments within the local community, may enlighten his attitude- that’s if he’s interested.

    And perhaps O’Muiri could spend a little time reading other local papers across the north. It’s a habit I have of picking up local papers wherever I am to get a feel for local sentiment, regardless of the political leanings of the majority of people in any given district.

    Were O’Muiri to have picked up the Andytown News recently he would have caught pictures of the annual Aisling Awards, when local people are rewarded and celebrated for their contributions to the community. Local businesses also provide bursaries for university students from west Belfast- including the Shankill (though that may not fit in with his idea of the narrow minded republican voting westies.)

    If he had’ve caught the Aisling Awards, he might have discovered that the narrow-minded, insular bigots of west Belfast nominated Ian Paisley alongside Martin McGuinness as their Persons of the Year (I just know Ballymena will be reciprocating with an appreciation award of some kind for the Mid-Ulster MP.) Several other awards were given out on the night, including to community groups from loyalist areas, whilst the son of former PUP leader, David Ervine, was also nominated for an award.

    But why let such examples of a self-confident, outward reaching community get in the way of another baseless anti-republican rant?

    Would that other communities would follow suit- certainly a greater degree of respect and tolerance exhibited in west Belfast than in those many areas which hold bonfires to burn flags and effigies of political opponents….

  • Steve:

    “By running this opinion piece does the man not become the ball?”

    No.

  • Sorry that was a bit curt. This is why it’s not permissible:

    http://tinyurl.com/2l3luw

  • Aw come on now Chris, surely the Doc’s been co-opted into the project? 😉 All Martin’s jibes about the Taliban now forgiven and forgotten.

  • What I believe, and you can do with it what you want, Mick, is this: I don’t think the Belfast Telegraph or the Irish Times are bastions of diverse opinion. I see that they promote a rather narrow view of the world in which anything can be said or written about republicans or those who share a greener view of the world. If because I say that I feel that Pól Ó Muirí’s writings conform to that line pretty diligently I am to be accused of launching an ad hominem attack on Pól Ó Muirí, I would view that as a rather crude attempt to suppress debate. After all what was Ó Muiri’s original piece except a thinly veiled ad hominem attack on those who believe differently to him. I have read pieces by Pól Ó Muirí which have been downright nasty and libellous regarding people I know and respect. That’s playing the man for you. As far as I can see nothing I’ve written comes close to an ad hominem attack and I resent your representation of my contributions as such. Simply put, as far as I’m concerned, Ó Muirí has a credibility problem and you’re only compounding it with your, if I may say so, selective protectionism.

  • You know very well that you have past form on this. But have it your own way.

  • Past form isn’t the issue or it shouldn’t be.

    But it reminds me of that old xtc song – the censors appear to be working overtime.

  • Mick Fealty

    Slugger works on two main principles so far as participation in debate: the entry bar should be as high as possible, but the quality bar should be as high as possible.

    What you are engaged in is purely personal knobbling of the writer. Worse some of it at least is based on fraudulent conjecture.

    That you have repeated the offence when you know exactly what the line only indicates mal-intent.

    As for censors, where’s the incision? It’s called putting a marker down. Consider it laid down. I’d rather have you included, but if you continue to self-exclude by seeking to play fast a loose with the rules, there is nothing much I can do.

  • brendan,belfast

    Chris the A’Town Barracks is not a bad example, whatever Minister made the decision(and it was actually a Direct Ruler who decided in principle tghat the land should shamefully become anotther apartment block above / chinese take out below) -SF should not have stood for it.

    They should have added this issue to their barganing list at St Andrews instead of Irish Language (they did well on that) OTRs and the McCabe murderers.

    The point it – and you will not accept it – that other MPs argued for their constituencies, in the absence of having Executive powers – and got things delivered.

    SF prefer street politics and placards to delivering progress.

  • Where’s the fraudeulent conjecture? Kindly point it out to me so I can ascertain that you are in fact talking out of your backside in order to protect what is an invidious position.

    Self exclude? The ultimate cop out of a censor. Like SInn Féin excluded themselves from participation in television programmes during the reign of Section 31 because they believed in what SF believed in then…

  • URQUHART

    brendan,belfast:
    “Chris the A’Town Barracks is not a bad example, whatever Minister made the decision(and it was actually a Direct Ruler who decided in principle tghat the land should shamefully become anotther apartment block above / chinese take out below) -SF should not have stood for it.”

    Did one of the Maskeys, Paul I think, not actually welcome the DSD announcement when it was first made? Can anyone here clarify?

  • brendan,belfast

    correct URQUHART Paul Maskey, one of the more pro active SF councillors / MLAs in the west did welcome the development before somebody had a word in his ear about ‘the community’.

  • Chris Donnelly

    Chris the A’Town Barracks is not a bad example, whatever Minister made the decision(and it was actually a Direct Ruler who decided in principle tghat the land should shamefully become anotther apartment block above / chinese take out below) -SF should not have stood for it.

    Brendan

    I fear you’re a bit behind the game. Sinn Fein didn’t stand for it- they led the charge against the Carvill plans and the group dropped their involvement in the project after meeting with Gerry Adams.

    I note you omit to acknowledge Margaret Ritchie’s involvement.

    Oh, and have we dropped the reference to deprivation indices after I pointed out the ramifications of such an approach for the respective SDLP MPs in Derry?

  • brendan,belfast

    Oh, and have we dropped the reference to deprivation indices after I pointed out the ramifications of such an approach for the respective SDLP MPs in Derry?

    No – i just didn’t bother reading your long, rambling contribution.

    you just dont want to take my point on the west and the barracks. why did SF politicans let the situation arise whereby there was ever going to be apartments built there? whay didn’t they negotiate the issue properly in the first place?

  • Mark McGregor

    Chris,

    Do you have the Moyle result? I hear your man humiliated the SDLP and improved SF’s percentage in the ward.

  • gaelgannaire

    Brendan,

    Surely there is a question of scale here?

    Would anyone really expect what is essentially a planning matter, no matter how serious, to really be a part of negotiations which sought a solution to the conflict we have had here? Which were attempting to form a power-sharing executive between diametrically opposed groups.

    I really don’t think so.

  • The Raven

    Folks, let’s not get too far into the Noble Indices thing. Because up there with Derry and Belfast is Newry & Mourne, Moyle, Strabane and Limavady, if memory serves me right.

    In essence they prove very little about political leadership, other than some areas – through often no design of their own – are higher up the list than others.

  • Aquifer

    This is a long way from West Belfast. The riots took the kids out of school, they burned down or blew up the jobs, they vilified any nationalists and socialists who did not get their joined up total war thinking, until the only jobs left were made up community jobs, and then they took those.

    The problem was the difference between revolution and tradition. Das Kapital and Social Capital. Socialism on an island of smallholders. Violence and civil rights, Agrarian disorder and industrial relations. Equality and enterprise. Ourselves alone and globalisation. Republicanism and religion.

    A movement on one side of a sectarian fault line.

    There was no resolution by way of the Provo ‘revolution’. They were a waste of time.

    West Belfast is their space.