Blink and you’ll miss it

Just FYI for the files: The Andersonstown News has removed Blinker’s, er, Squinter’s, article about Gerry Adams from their websites, and from Squinter’s blog. (Hint: it’s quite easy to start your own blog – ask Newton Emerson, Eamon Lynch or Anthony McIntyre, who also benefited suffered from the censorship control-freakery of Teach Basil, for tips*). We print it below for posterity’s sake – to remember the day the bold men struck a blow for freedom of speech.

* Insert your own “Told you so” here

UPDATE: The Belfast Telegraph reports: “A pro-Sinn Fein newspaper has apologised to Gerry Adams after an unprecedented attack on him by one of its best-known columnists.” Only “here” would an MP be able to stop a local paper from criticising his political performance, not to mention getting a front page apology in the bargain, with barely an eyebrow raised, eh?

UPDATE 2: Peter Weir calls for a ban on government funding to the paper as it has now proved itself to be nothing more than a party propaganda sheet.P.S. You can still access the heretical article via Belfast Media and Irelandclick sites using their Pagesuite viewer and paging through the archived edition – well, until they black that out or something. SHhhhh, keep that to yourself though. Don’t give them any ideas….

Squinter: Taking a sideways look at the week

20 years on, Gerry must face the truth

“The cruellest lies are often told in silence.” Adlai Stevenson wasn’t far wrong when he said that. Not that Squinter can be accused of keeping quiet too often, but it is the case as we prepare to bury Bap McGreevy that there are some things that are said and some things that aren’t, and one of the things that isn’t being said – publicly at least – is that it’s time for Gerry Adams to shoulder his share of the blame for the mess we’re in and stop blaming everybody else.

Adams has been the West Belfast MP for 20 years. First elected in 1983, he has served continuously since then, save for a five-year break when Joe Hendron took back the seat for the SDLP in 1992.

If a week is a long time in politics, then 20 years is the Upper Paleolithic Age. It is in that same 20-year period that the slow, steady decline into chaos in certain parts of West Belfast began, and it was on his watch that it has gathered pace to become the runaway train that it is today.

First thing to be said is that there are many people and many agencies to blame for the state of the lower Falls, to take that as an example: the Chief Constable, the Housing Executive, the courts, the Prison Service, the Probation Board, Social Services, certain local parents – the list goes on. But while Adams can and does point the finger at some or even all of the above, Squinter has to say that he has never heard Adams accepting any responsibility for the fact that large parts of his constituency are no-go areas, but without the bellbottoms, the parkas and the armalites, of course.

It definitely wasn’t Adlai Stevenson who said: “You don’t drown by falling in the water, you drown by staying there.” Whoever said it had a point. Like every one of us, Bap McGreevy fell into the water when Harry Holland was slaughtered. It was hoped back then that the wave of community disgust and horror might be fashioned into a life raft which would carry us all on a tide of community solidarity and determination to a safer shore. Didn’t happen. What happened was that Bap McGreevy was left to drown – in his own blood – while the rest of us continue to flail around hoping that we won’t go under too.

Who’s to blame for the failure to press home the Harry Holland momentum? Gerry Adams is to blame, that’s who. He’s not the only one to blame, of course. Squinter refers you back to the list above, and every one of us who complains and then pulls the curtains and turns up the TV when the sun sets is to blame in our own collective way. But Gerry Adams is the MP, has been for 20 years. He’s supposed to know how to marshal and direct; he’s supposed to give us the ideas and the leadership; he’s supposed to make things better. When he asks for and gets our votes he accepts a host of very onerous responsibilities, and the most basic of those responsibilities is to make his constituency a good place for decent people to live and for parents to bring up their families. In that he has failed terribly.

Of course the police are falling down on the job, but how long is it possible to get away with that excuse? Bears crap in the woods, fat babies fart, the Pope wears a funny hat, the Trevors are jaw-droppingly useless. Tell us something we don’t know. Gerry Adams knows a lot better than Squinter that while the PSNI might have a lot of intelligence about the people of West Belfast, they know them as well as they know the remotest tribe of Western New Guinea – and they care even less. Against that background, complaining about the PSNI not doing their job is like complaining about the cold weather we’re supposed to be getting over the Easter weekend.

And every time Sinn Féin gets together at another fist-clenching Stormont meeting (the 2008 equivalent of Long Kesh political lectures), we’re told that economic deprivation underpins the myriad social problems that are convulsing the West Belfast community. They hope nobody will think to ask whose job it has been for the past 20 years to get investment and jobs and to generate community confidence and optimism.

It wasn’t as if Adams didn’t have the clout and the contacts. A former aide of Tony Blair has been making frankly embarrassing revelations in a new book about how close Adams and Blair were. Adams was the Oprah Winfrey of Irish-America. And what did we get? InBev gone and Visteon going. A huge investment conference that holds its nose as it swishes past West Belfast ferrying ministers and Invest NI suits to Hillsborough and Cultra. Adams might have got away with pointing to the lack of investment in his constituency in 1983 and saying: “Nothing to do with me, mate.” 20 years on and you’d buy a house in Ross Street quicker than you’d buy that.

20 years. Two decades. Four parliamentary terms. Four US Presidents. Two Popes. 11 Secretaries of State. Five UN Secretary-Generals. Five Taoisigh. Five Prime Ministers. In Ross Street the wind of change blows in empty Budweiser boxes and despair; it blows out good people and hope.

As a friend bitterly told Squinter over a St Paddy’s Day pint, Ourselves Alone are not the proud and risen republican people surging shoulder-to-shoulder towards a new Ireland, but the abandoned pensioners of the lower Falls who now fear the night a million times more than they ever feared the Brits or the loyalists. And don’t tell Squinter they’re not right to be afraid. When the bad guys can kill a well-known and popular ex-prisoner who was a fit and strong body-builder, then quite frankly Squinter’s more than a little concerned himself.

And so, next election day, Squinter thinks he’ll stay in the house in solidarity with those who are staying in their homes simply because they’re afraid to leave.


A chara,

The ‘Squinter’ article of March 20, following the murder of Bap McGreevey, was both offensive and hurtful.
I am well used to and welcome criticism but I am disappointed at the tenor and tone of his tirade.
It was more reminiscent of a Sunday Independent columnist than the Andytown News.
Squinter’s advice that we should stay at home is also bad advice.
The duty of citizens is to join in the efforts to achieve more change, more jobs, better housing, and safer communities.
That’s the way forward for this constituency.

Gerry Adams, MP MLA

The Andersonstown News accepts that the tone and the timing of the Squinter article last week, during a period of community mourning, was inappropriate and unnecessary and apologises to Gerry Adams and our readers for any hurt caused. — Ed.

Previously on Slugger: here, here, here, and here.