Taking a stand against censorship

Lisburn SDLP councillor Matthew McDermott is reported by the Irish News to have returned his young achiever (“40 under 40”) Belfast Media award in protest at their handling of the Squinter column and subsequent front page apology to Gerry Adams MP MLA. “A columnist of any repute should be allowed to do what they are paid to do and criticism of politicians or political parties, including my own, is part of the rough and tumble of this business,” he said, unable to accept the award, believing that “newspapers should be free to comment “without fear of censure or interference”.”

A COUNCILLOR given an award by a newspaper for being a young achiever has handed it back in protest at its handling of a complaint from Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams.

Matthew McDermott (23), who was recognised by Belfast Media Group in its ‘Top 40 Under 40’ awards, said he felt “unable” to accept the honour.

The Lisburn SDLP councillor returned the award yesterday.

Mr McDermott said his decision was related to a recent decision by the Andersonstown News to apologise for an opinion article carried last month.

The column criticised Mr Adams, the West Belfast MP, saying he should take his share of responsibility for rising crime in his constituency, following the murder of Frank McGreevy at his lower Falls home.

However, the next edition carried a front-page apology to Mr Adams.

Mr McDermott said newspapers should be free to comment “without fear of censure or interference”.

“A columnist of any repute should be allowed to do what they are paid to do and criticism of politicians or political parties, including my own, is part of the rough and tumble of this business,” he said.

Will any of the other award recipients follow suit?

  • mm

    There was another small element of revisionism in that ATN piece. Maria McCourt has Darren Rice joining the ‘Police Service’ in 1997. Even SF aren’t claiming the RUC were a ‘police service’, nice to see the ATN so far ahead of the game on welcoming the PSNI they are going back in time to endorse the RUC.

  • wild turkey

    what is the prize to the first comment that bad mouths Matthew McDermott because
    (a) he is an SDLP councilor and
    (b) therefore is inately biased stooge leading to (c) his politically motivated cheapshot which
    (d) demonstrates how out of touch both he and his party are with the depth of community hurt and anger on this particular issue

  • fair_deal

    WT

    See what you did? you killed the thread stone dead 😉

  • Perhaps shoppers will boycott Sainsbury’s, one of the sponsors …

  • Harry Flashman

    Good for McDermott, too many people (including posters in the venerable SO’T) accept censorship when it applies to people they don’t like.

    I don’t like squinter but I like the censorship of him even less.

  • Shame

    Possibly opportunistic but it doesn’t take away from the fact that this guy is absolutely right to take a stand and right to highlight this issue.

    The Andersonstown News made complete fools of themselves with the front page apology and should be standing by their columnist, now bowing to pressure from politicos. Shameful.

  • URQUHART

    He’s a stoop stooge looking for a handy headline. What would he or his party know about the hurt and pain in West Belfast?

    gift to Teach Basil by return please.

  • URQUHART

    But seriously folks…

    Who comes out of the fiasco worse – ATN for its craven cowardice or Gerry Adams for his obviously out-of-control ego?

    On reflection, I think it might actually be the latter.

    Don’t write off the possibility of this being part two of a two part attack on the MP.

  • TGB

    Not suprised at this at all, a publicity stunt from a pretty poor publlicity seeking politician. McDermott as usual seems interested only in scoring petty points.

  • Shore Road Resident

    Ouch TGB, that remark can only cause hurt and pain!

  • x

    Did anyone notice the apology to Robo in the Newsletter a few days ago?

    Clearly our politicians are becoming sensitive souls, demanding apologies and compensation at the slightest criticism.

    It has often been rumoured that letter writers frequently get Solicitors letters from DUP politicians at the first signs of criticism – usually to try and scare off any follow up. Clearly SF has had the same affect on the ATN.

    Free speech is a precious commodity and somewhere in the new NI it appears to be under pressure – eternal vigilance needed me thinks!

  • Muad’Dib

    Nice spot of whataboutery there Mr X, almost slipped under the radar.

    I congratulate Matthew on taking this stand and await to see the big swing behind this probing jab.

  • Máirseáil Uí Neill

    Matthew McDermott came across on talkback there as someone relishing his own self appointed media credentials as some sort of human rights champion.

    where is his concern with regard to the human rights of the people who live in west belfast and suffer anti-social behaviour, to the degree of killing on our streets? should he not be doing more to highlight or fight that than engage in cheap media opportuinism???

    also, is he concerned and will he champion the human rights of the female Sinn Féin cllr recently called a ‘washer woman’ by a fellow SDLP cllr?????

    on talkback today he spent more time pontificating about what he believes in and what he percieves as right and wrong, he also said that this was the first instance of human rights abuse he encountered, jaysus isn’t it lucky for him?! because believe me many young men and women from his area have suffered it for years and years, i wonder where matthew was???

  • Dec

    Sorry, am I missing something here? From the report:

    A Councillor given an award by a newspaper for being a young achiever has handed it back in protest at its handling of a complaint from Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams.

    Mr McDermott’s words:

    Mr McDermott said newspapers should be free to comment “without fear of censure or interference”.

    “A columnist of any repute should be allowed to do what they are paid to do and criticism of politicians or political parties, including my own, is part of the rough and tumble of this business,” he said.

    Assuming Mr McDermott is protesting at the censorship, why then is he punishing the victim of censorship? Do people opposed to the Israeli role in Gaza boycott Palestinian goods? No wonder the report is at odds with his actual words but not his actions.

    (Of course it would be wide of the mark to suggest that this half-baked (and not very well thought out gesture) by an unknown SDLP councillor had any relation to generation of publicity.)

  • West Belfast

    Its really great that you are all taking such a great interest in West Belfast.

    At the time I welcomed the Squinter article, I stand by that.

    I welcomed it because I thought SF needed a shake – that happened. SF has responded to the criticism. Its kneejerk response was inevitable but there appears to be a refocus on the important issues.

    As for the ATN apology – who says that doesnt reflect WB opinion? As for this SDLP bloke – I really dont care.

    Lets start another thread. Homophobia rampant in Derry – Durkan to blame. Or, drugs out of control in Ballymena, Paisley to blame.

  • More to the point, who is Matthew McDermott and why did the BMG give him this award?
    To me he seems to be a very nondescript councillor who has done absolutely nothing in politics. I’m puzzled as to why the BMG would think of him a worthy beneficiary, more fools them.
    Marlon Brando he ain’t.

  • Mark McGregor

    Paul,

    Matthew didn’t even win his seat, he was coopted after Patricial Lewsley left but he is very successful at getting stories in the ATN, something I have a funny feeling may be about to change for him. Might not have been the cleverest idea in the longrun.

  • Bearladóir

    Why didn’t Matthew McDermott make a speech at the Top 40 luncheon yesterday? Why wait until today? Maybe he should strap a pair on.

    Come to that, maybe the Andytown News should aswell. Do they really lack the perspicacity to see that their climbdown and subsequent refusal to acknowledge anything to do with the original article and Pól Deeds’ answering rant is the right thing to do?

  • Mark McGregor

    Is that right? Did he turn up and collect the award yesterday? Say nothing? Then go to the Irish News today?

    That would look a little gonad challenged.

  • Gav

    Mark,

    At the event yesterday Matthew spoke to Martin O’Muilleor and told him that he could not accept the award and gave him the reasons why.

  • J Kelly

    Maybe it wasn’t his own idea but the idea of the those two political geniuses who represent the SDLP in West Belfast. A word of advice to Matthew remember what they did to Brid Rodgers career in West Tyrone.

  • West Belfast

    This is the problem with the SDLP and other SF opponents.

    The original threads on the squinter article were genuine but as it became clear that some are not interested in WB, just SF bashing, then your argument rings hollow and is seen for what it is – political opportunism.

  • Mark Fartlighter

    Eejit.

    Sqinter writes article, Gerry Adams writes reply, Alex Maskey says matter is over, ATN writes apology, Adams says there is no need for apology.

    BUT Adams is loved in West Belfast by many (detested by a few), grannies love him, kids follow him about like he is Bono, but best of all he keeps winning elections with massive majorities, that democracy thing!

    I heard that the phone to the ATN never quit for a week. The ATN printed an apology, a silly thing to do, because they felt sales would drop, and selling papers is what they do.

    What is the problem?

  • Gav

    Mark,

    The way I see it, the point of reporting the news isn’t to pander to the readers. It’s to impartially tell the news and if that’s hard for people to hear then so be it.

  • Máirseáil Uí Néill

    Mark,

    The way I see it, the point of reporting the news isn’t to pander to the readers. It’s to impartially tell the news and if that’s hard for people to hear then so be it.

    but i t wasn’t the ‘news’

    it was squinters own individual opinion

  • DK

    “Perhaps shoppers will boycott Sainsbury’s, one of the sponsors …”

    Did Curley’s offend Sinn Fein?

  • Mark Fartlighter

    Gav,

    “The way I see it, the point of reporting the news isn’t to pander to the readers.”

    They are trying to make money!!! You cant alienate your readers.

    Do you work for the Newsletter?

  • Gav

    I wish I did work for the newsletter. Probably get paid better.

  • circles

    Ach Gerry Adams has lost it as has his party. The animal farm comparisons now doing the rounds may be predictable but they’re not any less true because of that.
    Control freakery in hyper-drive – and then the ATN bending over to satisfy the frustrations of his bruised ego.
    I’m getting T-shirts printed – Vote SF: 4 legs good, 2 legs better.
    This stoop trying to hop the band wagon though is faintly ridiculous – as are the outbursts by many posters condemning the censorship by SF. I don’t really remember so many appalled voices when it was the shinners being censored.

  • I wish they would stop be referred to as Sin nFein, they isn’t anything Sinn Fein about them at all, sure.

  • nineteensixtyseven

    I think Matthew was totally right in highlighting the ATN censorship. Papers should be allowed to print things even if Gerry Adams disagrees with them. Spin Fein obviously don’t get the whole ‘democracy’ thing yet, it’s more than winning elections.

  • Gav

    1967,

    Exactly! FFS Mugabe and Putin can win elections!

  • Belfast Gonzo

    DK

    Sainsburys bought Curley’s late last year.

  • Mark Fartlighter

    “I wish they would stop be referred to as Sin nFein, they isn’t anything Sinn Fein about them at all, sure.”

    Is you cajun?

    “Papers should be allowed to print things even if Gerry Adams disagrees with them.”

    They are, they did. Thats why this thread exists.

  • NP

    Lets remember “Squinter” got Newton Emerson sacked from his “geeky” “anorak” job in Poleglass, cause the Newt was slagging Robin Livingstone in “The Portadown News”……. mind you it was just “the Oxygen of publicity” that Emerson needed to launch his media career….. thumbs up to squinter….. Result, you numpty.