Adams could have answered the criticism…

Malachi O’Doherty has a piece in tonight’s Belfast Telegraph which goes over the Squinter column incident from the last few weeks. It’s difficult to judge at this distance which sustained the more damage: Sinn Fein for intemperately slapping down legitmate journalistic comment; or the paper for folding so completely and abjectly in the face of that pressure. At the heel of the hunt O’Doherty suggests that Adams has lost an opportunity that he may regret: “it was raw emotion and ill formed. It could have been answered.”By Malachi O’Doherty

When the editor of the Andersonstown News, Robin Livingstone, writing under his pseudonymn Squinter, called last wek for the resignsation of his consituency MP, Gerry Adams, the speculation took several directions.

Some thought this was such a brave thing for Squinter to be doing that he must have backings. So, was a serious contender to Adams standing in the wings? Obviously, if anyone was thinking of moving against Adams from within Sinn Fein, that person would need to have the local paper on side. But who could it be? Every other Sinn Fein representative owes his or her political profile to Gerry Adams.

Does anyone seriously think that our current education minister, Caitriona Ruane, has built her profile on years of service and experience or that anyone would cry out at the injustice of it if Gerry Adams replaced her tomorrow?

There are only two conceivable heirs to Gerry Adams as leader of Sinn Fein and they are Conor Murphy and Martin McGuinness. And – who knows? – each might be twitching to remove the leader because there is something embarrassingly unemployed looking about him. The master plan was that Adams would lead a resurgent party in the south while McGuinness took the spoils in the North and that they would unite Ireland – symbolically at least – across the table as ministers in their respective governments. Instead, Gerry now looks like a wallflower at his own wedding.

But if either Murphy or McGuinness was plotting against Adams, it is unlikely that they would deploy Squinter against him. And if someone else is behind Squinter, then it is a pointless exercise because that someone else is not going to be party leader.

Another theory about the call for the resignation of Adams was that Squinter had just taken a rush of blood to the head and done something daft. Certainly he has damaged himself and the credibility of his paper, which opted to apologise and withdraw the column and the accompanying blog from the internet. The graffitti on the Falls Road mocks this move with: O Muilleoir No Balls. Mairtin O Muilleoir is the managing editor of the Andersonstown News group of papers.

Squinter has also, whether consciously or not, provoked Sinn Fein into presenting itself as a dictatorial party. It would have looked more like a normal democratic party if it had engaged in the argument he had started, and it may come to regret being so censorious. The next time Sinn Fein brags about its liberal credentials and its democratic spirit, those who doubt they see either in the party will ask where the silencing of Squinter fits in with them.

And it is not as if Squinter had made a strong coherent case that was so shocking in its import and thrust that it could not be withstood but had to be stood down.

He was characteristically witty and brash in damning Gerry Adams as an MP who had neglected his consituency and allowed hoodlums to thrive, but it is naive to assume that the local MP regulates the level of crime. For some of those who joined the blog discussions, before they were withdrawn, the real issue was that Adams had emasculated the IRA and that hoods were no longer being kneecapped.

The Squinter blog provided a forum for dozens of people to attack Adams from different directions, and they did. But there was security and reassurance for Adams in that, for it showed that there was not a unified movement against him that he would have difficulty answering. All he had to do was turn them against each other.

It is inconceivable that the column and the blog would have been erased if Adams had not wanted them erased. Had he thought the thing through, he might have seen that he would have done himself more credit by leaving them in place and taking on the arguments and showing how fractious and fragmented they were.

Which raises another speculation; that Adams is not secure after all, for he has not met this with the confidence of a secure party leader. He has come out of it like a sullen dictator who will brook no discussion about his failings.

Last week Squinter opened the floodgates for dozens of people to express their disdain and contempt for their MP in West Belfast. It was astonishing because it was new for people to criticise, and it was an insight into the secret feelings harboured by many. But it was raw emotion and ill formed. It could have been answered.

Unanswered, it surely gives Gerry Adams with something to think about. If the box is closed and the discussion ended for now, it may only be when he is gone that the discussion will resume. He will not then be uniformly remembered with fondness and respect.

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  • Gregory

    “there is something embarrassingly unemployed looking about him”

    He looks like a tourist in his own constituency, one isn’t supposed to be a local MP with an entourage, Martin Sheen didn’t have one (in WB) and he is really famous I reckon.

    Mr. Sheen was also in ‘Nam tracking down Marlon Brando, so it is not as if we can exclude the possibility of darn communists sending over a few VC to take a pop at him at the Culturlann.

    They could pretend they were delivering a Chinese or something. That is just as likely as James Bond trying to take out Gerry, on the other hand, maybe the entourage *is* James Bond, who is working for who these days?

    ‘Does anyone seriously think that our current education minister, Caitriona Ruane, has built her profile on years of service and experience or that anyone would cry out at the injustice of it if Gerry Adams replaced her tomorrow? ‘

    She hasn’t a clue how much trouble she is in. Having said that, what does Malachi mean precisely?

  • austin

    Squinter was right to express an opinion against Adams if he so wishes but picked the wrong issue. However a bigger wrong was to apologise.

    O’Doherty seems a bit desperate in his attempt to unmask the Shinner Heavy Hitter egging Squinter on.

  • west belfast

    Ah the return of the flogged dead (and surely rotten by now)horse. I know Malachi is a good friend of Gerry so I am surprised that he has decided to resurrect this!

    Anyway GA is our MP whether Malachi, the SDLP , or anyone else for that matter, like it or not.

  • Malachi must be losing his sharpness. It wasn’t a lost opportunity for Sinn Fein or Gerry Adams. It was simply the way of Sinn Fein and Adams, weak political leaders for a democracy, bolstering themselves up through censorship, intimidation and sheer ignorance. Mugabe methodology happens for a reason.

  • Gregory

    “Anyway GA is our MP whether Malachi, the SDLP , or anyone else for that matter, like it or not.”

    He is the MP, he’s not my MP.

    SF are a hick party, they can’t stop being that, that may sound terribly condescending, but it is the blunt truth.

  • Hogan

    “Having said that, what does Malachi mean precisely?”


    As the master of the half-point on this board i find it distasteful of you leveling the charge at others.

  • Shore Road Resident

    I hope this means O’Doherty is returning to the Tele – they don’t have a single good regular columnist now apart from Eamonn McCann.

  • Norton

    I’d take the view that the Squinter column was indeed inspired by anger and emotion rather than by any attempt at an internal Sinn Fein coup.
    If you think to 2004, the murder of 16-year-old Meghan McAlorum was as much indicative of social breakdown as any of the murders in the past year.
    No-one blamed Gerry Adams for facilitating the conditions in which that murder took place and indeed he has twice since been championed by the people of the area at the ballot box, never more spectacularly so than last March with a pattern of vote management that was outstanding and which could not have happened against a background of ambivalence.
    I think the difference was that on two recent occasions, the victims were viewed as being members of the Republican family, certainly so in the case of Frank McGreevy and to a lesser extent with Harry Holland.
    The people of west Belfast are finding it difficult to come to terms with the fact that a man like Frank McGreevy, who in their eyes gave great service to the cause, can be battered outside his front door.
    It is like a British Army war hero returning to Stowe-on-the-Wold and being beaten to death on his doorstep in 1948. Politically, there is little Winston Churchill could do about that but nevertheless some people would see his face when the anger boiled within him.
    So two points of conclusion – I think the Andersonstown News would have been better laying out a more tempered article the following week explaining why the original piece was written in the heat of the moment and because it lacked dispassionate analysis, was wrong.
    On the other hand, I can see why Gerry Adams, who I understand was a friend of Bap McGreevy, would have been very offended for being blamed, however indirectly, for his murder. Therefore he demanded a full apology when the sort of explanatory follow-up may have been better.
    In essence both Squinter and Gerry Adams have behaved in a hot-headed manner and I think that both have subseqently realised that these things are better discussed, in public at least, with cool words.

  • jake

    malachi o’doherty is so wrong it is unbelievable. robin livingstone didn’t write the squinter article on adams, it was written by a securocrat from the northern ireland office who smuggled it into the columns of the ATN when no-one was looking. everyone knows that. those securocrats will stop at nothing to undermine our great and beloved leader. long may he reign over us!

  • UFB

    Good comment Norton.
    IMHO a rational level headed analysis.

  • Danny O’Connor

    In my view this was a fiasco.If the press print something that you believe to be unfair, you can demand a right to reply ,or if it is untrue you can sue them for defamation.I do not think the matter was handled appropriately by either SF or the A News.The columnist who wrote the article must feel totally shafted by the editor.

  • Prince Eoghan

    Yep Norton pretty much agree. Simple stuff really, logical despite the attempted ongoing spin campaign(s) What squinter said had to be said, but blaming one man *completely* is daft.

  • Star of the County Down


    Correct me if I’m wrong, but the columnist and editor are the same person in this case, no? Looks more like Livingstone being shafted by O Muilleoir. Which is nice…

  • nmc

    If you think to 2004, the murder of 16-year-old Meghan McAlorum was as much indicative of social breakdown as any of the murders in the past year.

    It’s the quantity of the murders that’s the problem. In west Belfast there has been a marked visibly obvious increase in anti social behaviour. The reasons are obvious, the kids balls are growing because no one’s getting shot any more, all you have to fear is being caught by the police and that’s pretty unlikely.

    The number of murders, and indeed vicious beatings is on the increase, but that’s the tip of the iceberg. For the vast majority of people in the West the effects are more noticeable when being told to fuck off by a fifteen year old using a screwdriver to remove bits of your car, the vandalism, abuse, threats and calls of what the fuck are you lookin’ at from drunk teenagers as you try to get to the shop and back after 6 on a friday night. I would say one thing to people hypothesising about the situation in the west – if you aren’t living there, it’s worse than you think it is.

  • I have just had Squinter point out to me that he did not in fact call for the resignation of Gerry Adams in his original article. I have too lightly assumed that calling on your MP to take the blame for the constituency’s problems amounts to the same thing.

  • Gregory

    ‘As the master of the half-point on this board i find it distasteful of you leveling the charge at others.’

    Moi, distasteful? Jeepers creepers, that’s damaging to the self-image.

    I’ve just got back from Pomerania, I mean Dungannon, the darn hills have done for me.

    I shall only be doing half-hearted posts for the next day or so. I think Gerry should weigh up his options, maybe that is, and force the ATN to apologize for apologizing.

    That’s my half-point.



    After venting the views of MANY Belfast Nationalists towards Adams & Sinn Fein the climbdown from the ATN was a real dagger to the heart. It reiterated the point that debate within the Republican movement OR ANY dissention to Adams is strangled at source. How many Republicans have left over the last while? Dozens I would say and in the high double figures. I used to be one of the sheep who defended the party NO MATTER what but the Quinns & McCartney’s appear to be vindicated. Sinn Fein are NOT democrats, they are an enclosed dictatorial clique negotiating for themselves alone. I have NO doubt and am more convinced than ever that the Northern electorate are about to deliver the Shinners the same blow the Southern electorate gave them. In Nationalist Belfast most people look straight ahead and nod in their presence but despise them in private. I have NEVER heard as much contempt directed towards them as now. They lost the people a long time ago. I stopped buying the ATN last week, it is NO longer a credible paper, simple.

  • spiritof07

    Danny O’Connor: “The columnist who wrote the article must feel totally shafted by the editor.”

    You do realise they are the same person, right?

  • Danny O’Connor

    Sorry I thought o’muilleoir was the editor,he is the owner ,that was my point,marty shafted robin.

  • Sarah Holland

    I think Norton summed it all up there. People get pissed off at gerry, then pissed off with the andytown news, then pissed off with the PSNI.

    I think we should focus our anger at the hoods and their families. I’d be delighted to see them fall off the face of the earth but it’s not gonna happen.

    This is a good time for the elected reps to come together and think up a long term strategy for dealing with ASB and disenfranchised youths.

  • The ATN made an embarrassing climbdown, no doubt about it. But Malachi made an even more embarrassing mistake in wrongly stating that Squinter called for Adams to resign – he didn’t, and if Malachi can’t even get that right then it destroys the credibility of his column.
    Malachi, did you even read Squinter’s column. If you did then how could you have drawn that conclusion?
    You’re an idiot, and an even bigger one than the fool who gave the go ahead for the ATN apology

  • Yrrab

    Steady on! How can you call Malachi an idiot? That is an affront to the people of west Belfast -and the suburb of Riverdale. This poor man could lose his position as the spokesman for the ‘acceptable face’ of ‘The West’: the darling Croppy of the unionist media. A man whose massive ego is matched only by his own self-perceived intelligence. The whole A Town News episode was sad from start to finish, but to misinterpret Squinter’s article was a schoolboy error. I feel that MOD’s raison d’etre is to twist the knife in the people of west Belfast for the benefit of his unionist paymasters. It may sound a bit obvious but I do believe that Malachi is the original man who came up the Lagan in a bubble..