Power of arrest used against Belfast blogger…

Malachi O’Doherty points to a disturbing development, that could have widespread implications, not simply for bloggers, but for any journalists in their legitimate business of tracking down a story. It’s with regard to a Belfast blogger called Alan Murray, who has been using his blog Holylands Warzone to campaign against the privatisation of public housing in his local area of Belfast. Malachi notes:

He is on a very important issue here and he has been writing about it more eloquently than most – and got beaten up for his trouble. But the worry for bloggers is that they can be prosecuted for naming public figures whose conduct they question! And if a blogger can be prosecuted for this, then so can a journalist.

Update: Tim picks up on the story, and very usefully points us in the direction of some critical background on the loosely worded legislation that allows it… who in turn cites this piece from George Monbiot…

Update 2 Incoming from Instapundit, hold on tight… And: New Slugger post here.He also provides a timeline with Murray’s version of what happened. The critical point, from journalist’s or blogger’s point of view is that the PSNI have responded to a complaint against writing on the Internet under the law of criminal harassment. Indeed, Murray claims to have been arrested twice: first on 2nd July and then again on 27th September last year.

I cannot and do not wish to speak to the veracity of Murray’s claims against the individuals named on his website. Free speech is rightly moderated by a civil code that gives both sides the opportunity to put their case before a court of law.

There is certainly a case for the involvement of the police if a blogger, or one of their commenters implies physical threats against a specific individual. But I’ve been through Murray’s blog and have not been able to find any evidence of such; which might explain why no charges appear to have been preferred.

If Malachi is right, the use of police power of arrest appears to have been used directly against a citizen for criticising several public figures on the Internet. That’s a development that should worry more than just the citizens of Belfast.

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  • Shore Road Resident

    They can’t convict anyone of the McCartney murder or stop a Bulgarian family being burnt out of Bushmills on the third attempt but they can arrest a man for criticising some protected-species quangocrat?
    Brilliant. Malachi should call the Human Rights Commission – so that Monica McWilliams can have him arrested as well.

  • Damian O’Loan

    You are absolutely right – this is a matter that the Human Rights Commission ought to vigorously pursuing, with the support of all parties in the Assembly.

    I’m presuming this Alan Murray is no relation to the Telegraph journalist?

  • Shore Road Resident

    In a perfect world, maybe, Damian – but in this world the HRC is run by people who actively oppose freedom of speech.
    This guy will get no help from them.

  • I totally agree with shore road resident, in his first post.

  • Can I update you, SRS. There was an armed robbery as well as the fire bombing in the past 24 hours. The police appear to be fairly impotent when it comes to serious offences.

  • I’ve come across this blog before when I blogged about The Gown’s inappropriate treatment of the death of a Holylands resident. It is intemperate, hysterical and far from constructive. The same might be said for many of the student responses to it. Whether you admire the site or not, however, if there is not more to this and he was arrested for criticism, then that’s an outrageous curtailment of free speech.

  • Shore Road Resident

    Right enough, Chekov, I’d forgotten about that.
    How come nobody at The Gown got arrested for gloating over a man’s death? Time to dial 999 I think. If not, why not?

  • DC

    Hardly surprising Mick to quote a song I heard, “there isn’t a courtroom in the land that would put a bankman on remand, even though they’ve been ripping off the people for years”.

    So what we have here is legal redress being used on a person who is himself without any sufficient legal redress re those students in Holyands making life hell ad infinitum.

  • No I’m not the well known journalist of the same name. I use extremely strong language on my blog because it describes the absolute horror of living in an environment that has been turned into a holiday camp for people who spend three years and lots of public money not going to class. I reference Suzanne Breen’s recent article to show that an awful lot of people feel that way. An area that was once bohemian and cultured has been turned into a playground for wealthy and ignorant sectarian chauvinists.

    http://holylandswarzone.blogspot.com/2008/06/that-suzanne-breen-article-in-full.html

  • As far back as 1999, I recall from working at the CPS that practically all charges of “harassment” named a policeman as the “harassed” one. It was at the time just another option to charge anyone who made themselves a problem to the cops.

  • I use extremely strong language on my blog because it describes the absolute horror of living in an environment that has been turned into a holiday camp for people who spend three years and lots of public money not going to class.

    But you also justify criminal acts against people’s property and describe them as ‘acts of resistance’.

    http://holylandswarzone.blogspot.com/2006/10/resistance.html

    There infringement of freedom of speech represented by these charges may be odious, the students’ behaviour may similarly be odious, but the approach of this blog is also odious. I don’t think we should entirely lose sight of that fact. This is someone who sees burning a student’s car as an ‘act of resistance’.

  • Shore Road Resident

    We are currently governed by people who regard blowing cars up as an act of resistance. They celebrate the fact regularly, and publicly. But they don’t get arrested.
    If Mr Murray sets a car on fire, by all means charge him with a crime. This is a charge for a thought-crime.

  • Damian O’Loan

    Chekov,

    I’d say there are two issues here. One is Alan Murray’s seeming support for crime as a form of resistance. That could lead to allegations of the crime below:

    46
    Encouraging or assisting offences believing one or more will be committed
    (1)
    A person commits an offence if—
    (a)
    he does an act capable of encouraging or assisting the commission of one or more of a number of offences; and
    (b)
    he believes—
    (i)
    that one or more of those offences will be committed (but has no belief as to which); and
    (ii)
    that his act will encourage or assist the commission of one or more of them.
    (2)
    It is immaterial for the purposes of subsection (1)(b)(ii) whether the person has any belief as to which offence will be encouraged or assisted.

    From the Serious Crime Act 2007.

    This is not what he was arrested under, which may be revealing as to the confidence in any potential conviction. In any case, I cannot find any account on the blog of a complaint being lodged with PONI, which adds to my incredulity at the post you linked to.

    Then there is the number of crimes, with residents as victims, which go unpunished and uninvestigated. It seems odd that Mr Murray has been repeatedly arrested given the failure to prosecute elsewhere on countless occasions.

    It should also be remembered that students are also victims of this environment. I certainly wouldn’t pay for a child of mine to stay in the Holylands during a course at Queen’s. Those adults who do are, in my opinion, failing their children in this regard.

    There is also the issue of the apparent impossibility to be excluded from Queen’s. I know people who have taken first year four times. That is beyond a joke, and encourages the lifestyle that gives rise to these problems. There are bigger issues here, governmental policies to increase the number of students, and therefore student debt, which may tie the hands of the University. That may also explain police actions.

    Finally there is the extremely serious accusation of abuse of statute in order to permit criminal behaviour to continue, in this case taking the form of an attack on free speech. Because the State is the actor here, and the potential for precedent, I’d consider this the most serious aspect. That is why I think the HRC ought to be involved, fully supported by the seven parties in Stormont.

  • Bemused

    Deepest sympathy to the remaining Holylands residents. As I’ve said time and time again on Slugger – Queens is an utter, utter dump. It’s ‘graduates’ are a by-word for parochial, fuck-witted ingorance.I regularly encounter supposed ‘law graduates’ from Queens – the vast majority of them can barely read and write with any modicum of coherence. Quite how this hole continues to market itself as a ‘university’ when the near entirety of it’s student body consists of slack-jawed bog-trash from west of the Bann is simply beyond me.

  • flycatcher

    Disturbing article by Breen particularly in relation to the trauma suffered by the family of the late Mr. Morgan whom I know was an extremely decent man.

    I attended a presentation recently given by the person at Queens with responsibility for student behaviour. I have to say that I was less than convinced that he was sufficiently streetwise or determined to really tackle this problem.

  • I do not endorse violence against people or property. What I describe as “Resistance” should be viewed as the desperation of those who have been denied all legal means of redress. To complain makes oneself a target and the police and universities will systematically do nothing to prevent that. Indeed the universities complaints procedures appear to be designed to make targets of residents in order to shut them up. Thus we are told that the number of complaints has fallen by 40%. This is falsely ascribed to the introduction of wardens who are incapable of protecting themselves from assault, let alone residents.

    It is a hideous and terrifying truth that only “Resistance” has had any effect on those who’s behaviour has to be seen to be believed. I don’t like it, but see it as having all the inevitability of a force of nature. It makes no sense morally or logically to condemn it. One may as well condemn the victim for resisting the rapist. Indeed the whole language of “conflict” in the Holyland is to impose “moral equivalence” as well as some notion of equivalence of force upon the obliteration of a community by institutional power. The Holyland has become a jungle and the reign of terror inflicted upon residents is propped up by the police and universities.

  • The Raven

    There was a time when at least five houses in the Holylands/Queen’s area would have been home to family members of mine. Indeed for the very early part of my life, it was home too. Rugby Court, University Avenue, Agincourt…all left now. And all citing the sort of behaviour in Breen’s article.

    Chekov, I see where you’re coming from. But this has truly gone beyond reprehension. The area is practically no-go. These were once beautiful streets, part of what I call “red-brick Belfast”. And the state of them is disgraceful. Vomit-filled, litter-strewn, there’s barely a family left in them.

    I have nothing but sympathy for Alan. The people ranging these streets after dark treat University disciplinary procedures as a joke, and ASBOs as a badge of honour. Rape by landlord is indeed too light a phrase to use.

    Damien, fine words you write; but I have yet to see Stormont, or indeed anyone else, lift so much as a discarded broken bottle, never mind a finger to do anything. Oh and students as victims of the environment? They’re all over the age of 18. Isn’t there a coming of age sometime around there…? I myself lived as a student for a year in the Holylands. Plenty of parties – but we never felt the need to piss against someone’s car, or play hurley at 3am. And that was only 12 years ago.

    Sure, it’s just youthful hi-jinks, isn’t it?

    Good luck, Alan. I suggest some sort of backup action from members of this site, but I doubt it would be too forthcoming.

  • Damian O’Loan

    Raven,

    As regards students, my point was that there are also students who live in the Holylands who suffer in much the same way as the residents do, even if they haven’t families to worry about, and who are not part of the problem. Like you described yourself, but up against a lot more these days.

    As regards political parties supporting action being taken against this, I think we can agree that to date little has been contributed, but that it should be called for. That is what I was doing.

    All this is less worrying to me than the apparent misuse of legislation described. Combined with the recent reports of local government abusing anti-terrorist legislation, it makes for a worrying picture. The plight of the residents shows how ineffective the justice system can be, despite its sometimes excessive capacities.

  • The Raven

    Sure, I’ll just get on the blower to David McClarty, Gregory Campbell, Mark Durkan, George Robinson, Francie Brolly, yer man McQuillan, and Wee John Dallat up here. They’ll sort it out for us.

    On the point of “excessive capabilities”, I wonder if the current administration in Stormont will be willing to put a cap (bust a cap, anyone?) on the over-reach of those powers? Perhaps make here an example of how civic society can be run without CCTV, DNA over-reach, ID cards, and so forth?

    Or perhaps we just like to fall back on 9 DUP MLAs….?

  • Damian O’Loan

    Well argued. I’m taking nothing away from the suffering of the residents. The point of the thread, however, seems to have passed most contributors by, including yourself.

  • Damian O’Loan

    Raven,

    If the police won’t listen to the residents, who do you think has any chance of exerting any pressure on them? That’s why I mentioned it. Do you, does anyone, have any ideas, or do you just want to mock mine?

    I have suggested:

    1. The HRC have an obligation to at least examine this.
    2. PONI should have been contacted by the blogger.
    3. The political parties, especially the local MP and MLAs have an obligation to their constituents to exert influence in their interests, and in the interests of justice.
    4. Queen’s policy of keeping failing students needs to be exposed as a major part of the problem.
    5. Queen’s may be under pressure to adopt that policy, awareness of which may help to negotiate further disciplinary action, or further protection for the residents.
    6. The PSNI might be under similar pressure, awareness of which may help to negotiate better responses on their behalf.

    I’ve been constructive on what is not the central point of the thread. You indulged in a little reminiscing.

  • sw

    cars can rape people?

    okay then we should burn em

  • Damian,
    the police ombudsman has been aware of this for over a year. Their investigation into this prosecution and the failure to prosecute the boyfriend of Katrina O’Neill or those who were party to the assault and/or made false witness statements, and were party to the giving of a false name by my assailant seems to be going nowhere very fast. The police are suitably uncooperative and have refused to provide full disclosure with respect to the current prosecution of myself as required by my Statement of Defence. No surprises there.

    Our MLa’s? Alistair McDonnell-Major landlord; Alex Maskey-openly lauds landlords at residents meetings as if we should be grateful they’ve raped the area. Being a wiley man he names and lauds two of them who are not involved in money laundering. The dogs in the street know those who are.

    The disciplinary procedures make targets of residents. Don’t expect the cops to prosecute “students”. They will not anger a manufactured catholic middle class, despite the fact that these people are sectarian chauvanists who openly celebrate the displacement of protestants from Mid-Ulster and bring the same mentality to the Holyland; this is their area, get the residents out. Don’t call it social cleansing; don’t call it ethnic cleansing; don’t say nothin’. The cops treat residents, apart from a select few (guess who) with naked and brutal hostility. This is clearly a policy decision. Don’t expect that to change.

    The universities will allow “students” to repeat first year ad infinitum because it brings in loads of money and first year does not count towards the degree marks. If the truth be told the “students” have learned in school how to do the bare minimum to get by and get their piece of paper at the end of a three year (or more)party. Students who have genuine difficulties based on health, family circumstances etc are the ones that end up getting screwed. The “temporary withdrawal” option is forced on students whether they like it or not. For complex legal reasons I will say no more on this other than to say that the head of occupational health has been known for years as “Sweeny Todd”. Believe me I know, and so do others who’ve had the same experience.

  • 0b101010

    University students are adult individuals and should be treated as such, not as some sort of amorphous group that can be “managed”. Universities provide a service; they shouldn’t so eagerly accept the role of policing their customers. Uncuff the police and let them deal with them within the law.

  • Damian O’Loan

    Alan,

    I’m very sorry to hear all that. I couldn’t find any record of the PONI complaint searching your blog. I’m not greatly surprised, though I am still let down, by the political response. If I could make another suggestion, you could place the official responses at the forefront of your case, and try to stick to a few lines – a message that will stick in people’s minds and attract maximum media attention. I know a lot of people have a ‘bloody students’ attitude that, whie I completely disagree with it, would probably do you some favours in garnering public support. If I can summarise your points into what might be an effective message to hammer home til your bored of it:

    1. Politicians’ vested interests are causing them to fail constituents.

    2. Police must be permitted to protect ratepayers from the physical and psychological injuries they are suffering on a daily basis, and Queen’s must be permitted to remove failing students.

    3. No-one should ever be the victim of the law to satisfy any financial interests.

    You could campaign for a maximum number of repeats for first-year students. You could work with the landlords and police under the premise that a safer area is worth more in rent, even if they don’t make basic repairs. This ‘ethnic cleansing’, ‘resistance fighter’ stuff is really not impressive and will only hamper your cause. I wish you all the best, and hope you don’t find this presumptious or naive.

  • Damien,
    I’ll take your points one by one:-

    – I agree that the moral and political bankruptcy of our politicians has to be exposed. I’m more than willing to tell the world what I think of the people who murdered Robert McCartney then nobbled the witnesses so that their testimony contained “reasonable doubt”

    -The police have the powers to deal with the mayhem in the Holyland. A decision has been made at the strategic level that they will not alienate a new demographic entity which already happens to despise them. The difference, however is between them seeing the cops as a joke and seeing them as an enemy. As I’ve discussed in my blog, the police readily deploy their powers against working class people in the area. Residents are treated with naked hostility and the mere sight of a hoodie or baseball hat causes them to pounce on people who obviously “don’t belong” in a “Student area”. It appears to,be an offence for someone from the Lower Ormeau to be seen in the Holyland.

    – It is important to tell the world that a policy decision was made to hand South Belfast, not just the Holyland to property developers. The planning office was obviously crucial in this respect, but the Housing Executive financed the process by doling out grants averaging 24,000 per property and often going as high as 36,000. There are 5,000 HMO’s in South Belfast and 10,000 in the province as a whole, so the total amount of money could be as high a 120 million and 240 million respectively. If one bears in mind that the Housing Executive has been prohibited from building new houses, it is easy to see that the money that should have built homes for real people was redistributed to the rentier class. Thus we have a housing crisis combined with the tyranny of Rachmanism. This is undeniably a calculated and deliberate social policy. Landlords receive 140 million each year in Housing Benefit. This is money that in a sane and moral world should be recycled into the building of new public housing.

    -There probably should be a maximum number of repeats for first years. After all there is for year two and year three.

    – Working with the police and landlords. Ooops!!!!! The malicious intent with which landlords have driven people from the area should be treated as a case study of evil in action. They have been phenomenally successful. There are 6000 “students” and 100 residents, a ratio of 60 to 1. I’m afraid that terms like “social cleansing” or “ethnic cleansing” are painfully appropriate. Someone should do an oral history of those who left the area. This is a story that must be told.

    -“Resistance Fighter”. I threw that term in as a joke because telling the truth about the area appears to scare the shit out of institutional power. Thus my prosecution. However there is another truth that is up close and personal and very horrific. People living there hit back not as a political act. You cannot save a community that has already died. People hit back because they want to sleep at night. They want peace in their own home, a right guaranteed under article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights. People are not even safe in their own home. The stress is enormous and people have to change to survive. They become hardened and angry. They cannot afford the luxury of being nice people. The noise levels are torture and so is sleep deprivation. Imagine being kept awake until 4am and being awakened by Kango Hammers at 7.30 when the workmen start next door. It is torture. It is an experience that has left me and many others horribly scarred. It is also in breach of article 6 of the European convention of Human Rights. People are denied all legal means of redress. They hit back and discover that it makes a difference. Burning cars quietens a street. Burning houses terrifies landlords ( but see the next post). Bricks through windows drive out party animals. I endorse none of the above. Yet I cannot condemn it. It is the product of desperation. The rape analogy is not used lightly. Residents are mentally violated and lives destroyed. The stress hammers physical and mental health. I was on a drip for three days because I got pneumonia. I could not sleep with the noise or eat with the stress. That environment has created an endless list of horror stories. I was serious about the oral history. Is the rape victim guilty of assault because she resists her violator with all her strength? Is she guilty of criminal damage because she gets blood on his clothes? Yet when the remnants of a community fight so that they can have some alleviation of the torture it is unacceptable. Even the language is intolerable.

    There is another post to follow

  • I was going to do a discussion on professional arson and house demolitions, but I think it’s too off-topic. Anyway I’m too tired and need to go get some chips.

  • The Raven

    I refer Mr O’Loan to the answer given by Alan, and by Ob1 above.

    Seems to be the only piece of legislation that has come from this Assembly is, I am informed, something to do with taxi plates. I apologise if I engaged in reminiscing, but I didn’t really think I needed to write what I am about to, givent that it is painfully evident already:

    Politicians of all walks seem to have disgracefully ignored this issue – it’s not one that could have easily passed under their radar, given it gets more publicity than Stoneyford.

    Queen’s failure of a policy HAS been exposed – on countless occasions – and fuck all squared seems to have happened from ANY quarter.

    PSNI, from the Holylands to Limavady to Omagh to Ballymena have singularly failed to round up an interagency approach on the problem of anti-social behaviour, but hey! I don’t have to go into how ineffective they are at the moment on just about ANY matter.

    The reason I engaged in a little bit of reminiscing is that the last relative of mine to move out of the Holylands was an aunt in her 80’s. She rose at 3am one Sunday morning when she heard, and subsequently found, a couple of these louts drinking in, pissing on, and swearing at her from, her own back garden on Rugby Court. The police response? “Sure it’s just hi-jinks.” That of course, being after taking an hour to get to her house. The response from her local councillors? They didn’t even phone back.

    Response? I’m kinda starting to side with something a little more militant.

  • Injustice

    “Sure it’s just hi-jinks.”

    Or just a tradtional parade route?

  • Comrade Stalin

    After reading Alan’s contributions it’s impossible to condemn the man. I was in QUB a few years ago and I encountered students who behaved in this way. At that time, 1997-2001, the holylands wasn’t as bad as it is now but it was beginning the long, slow descent.

    The problem here is the poorly regulated state of the private landlord sector, and the incoherent approach to public funding of housing and planning in this area.

    It’s downright sinister to hear about the PSNI’s approach and this seems to be something that is replicated in one way or another across the country; the PSNI are impotent and useless when it comes to dealing with serious crime and anti-social disorder. It’s inevitable that, in the face of a failure in law and order, that people will take the law into their own hands. I cannot condone this but the facts are stark.

  • Peat Blog

    I live on the border of the Holylands and sympathize with those living inside the Ghetto walls as I too often experience the chauvinistic born-in-a-field behaviour referred to.

    Several years ago I broke up a serious assault and obviously phoned for a ambulance, which quickly arrived. They treated the victim for 30 minutes at the scene and then brought him to hospital. Anyhow, the ambulance crew had already phoned the police prior to arriving and I was quite prepared to make a statement to them about what happened. Nobody showed up even though Donegall Pass station is less than five minutes away. The lawlessness of the area is shocking.

    PS I would point out that many of the worst students in the area are from UU (I can tell from their GAA tops).

  • Jo

    I recently sold my house in another part of s. Belfast. The original bidder on the house (who subsequently reneged on the deal) is a well known developer in the Holyland/S Belfast area, who subsequently said in my hearing “I will do here (my street/area) what I did in the Holylands”.

    I sold the house to another bidder and I am very glad I did, given that I believe that the same individual is involved here and is someone without a moral compass. Thats putting it mildly.

    For obvious reasons I cannot name him here. But everyone in my former street now knows who he is and will not sell to him.

  • Jo

    I also recall raising this issue with Chris Gaskin who was at Queens at the time and was sadly disappointed in his reaction to what was going on then and what has obviously deteriorated since.

    Plus ca change.

  • Jo

    I also seem to recall another public person who repreatedly threatens bloggers when they call him a bigot – but then bans them from his hatred-inciting website in the name of *free speech*.

    Rant over lol 🙂

  • Damian O’Loan

    Alan,

    No need to try to convince me of the problem, though the detail was interesting. In terms of a response that will work, I disagree with you. What are you planning – all out war? Just the odd burnt car and house here and there? You need to get real – any activity like this will sap public support for you, and you seem naive in not realising how it would be reported. When you call this “ethnic cleansing”, you seem to have a loose grip on reality, and this will lead people to believe that things are maybe being exaggerated all round.

    Raven,

    Thanks for that post from which I learned absolutely nothing, but I hope you enjoyed the further reminiscing. Anything constructive to add, or are you signing up for a Holylands Volunteer Force as well?

    Pointless,

    Care to refute any of my individual points? Care to offer anything constructive?

    Almost all of you appear unconcerned, or unaware, of the idea of Statutes being abused to protect certain (financial) interests. Yes, the Holylands is a huge problem for its residents. It is one estate, in one town. It is a smaller issue. And so your posts have all been off-topic, which is what happens when people don’t understand the real topic.

  • Damien,
    I do not believe that any response will work. For what it’s worth, people living there consider the situation to already be all out war. It is obvious to all but the most deluded that the area has been finished for a long time. People want out and are fighting to get some, not peace, but alleviation until they can get rehoused. The cricket ground on the Ormeau road contains a lot of refugees from the Holyland. They all have horror stories to tell. I suggest that everyone whom wants out be rehoused and no-one else be imprisoned in those houses. Sell them to finance more public housing. Many won’t go. they have maybe spent all their adult lives there. They should be given the best soundproofing that money can buy, and it should be financed by the universities and landlords. For what it’s worth I’ve managed to escape, but in an odd way. A single man was given a house in the cricket ground (Don’t ask me how. I don’t know). He is terrified of the kids and so swapped with me. Now he’s a prisoner in the Holyland. He’s been told what he’s in for, but hearing it’s not the same as living it. It is not a redemptive ending.

  • The Raven

    Damian, frankly your responses and arrogance are pretty appalling. Though I have to admit, I do recognise that more than a few contributors become so, once personal experience is introduced. When an eighty year old is confronted by behaviour like that, and the best you can come up with is “I didn’t learn anything”, I can see that a career in public life beckons.

    Let’s see Belfast’s extensive community safety budget engage a squad of community wardens. Not the usual one or two. I mean twenty or thirty of them. The budget is there.

    Let’s see local politicians pressure the police into enforcing the full letter of the law.

    Let’s see the City Council make this issue one of zero tolerance, and have Environmental Health blitz the area for noise and antisocial behaviour for a two to three month period. They have a team big enough – let’s see a few of them assigned to permanent duty there for a while.

    I have worked with diversionary schemes, and neighbourhood renewal projects. I have see where the carrot has failed and the short period of the stick has improved things. If this was Stoneyford, there’d be an outcry. There’s been too much of a blind eye turned to this issue for it to be put down to “boistrous teenagers” any longer.

    Oh yeah we’re all off-topic. But I’ll happily stand with that crowd until such times as we get off the pseudo-intellectual cloud of self-righteousness, and actually get to the core of the problem.

  • Damian O’Loan

    Raven,

    No, you’re not understanding my post. It wasn’t with pleasure that I said that your post revealed nothing new to me. But you think that maybe killing, or seriously injuring, a student here or there will help the situation, and you’re wrong. Your constructive points (and see my post on the thread below for my opinions on the removal of the Community Policing budget) are more helpful than anything hitherto, and that is more respectful to the suffering that people are undergoing, and have undergone.

    Alan,

    I would suggest that is not as hopeless as that because it is an untenable situation that is based on short-term profits, and that cannot be the long-term foundation for any community. No more than supporting violence against students is a long-term, or even short-term, answer. You can focus your argument, stick with it, and it will outlive the ridiculous policies that are allowing the present situation to fester.

  • Damien,
    There is no community left. 6000 “students” and 100 residents (a figure rapidly shrinking as stress kills the elderly). I don’t see how the situation can be viewed as untenable for landlords. They own the properties. Many of them act as a front for You Know Who. There are those who have to turn liquid capital into hard capital and they don’t care if it sits empty. However the properties are always tenanted. There is no glut of vacant dwellings. Even the slums in Wolsey Street are being filled up, this time with refugees and migrant labour. Rachmanism is the new Housing Policy and it will not go away.

    I have discussed some of these issues on my blog. When exposed the local fake “residents’ group” as a fraud for promoting Rachmanism as a solution to the housing crisis I suffered a near fatal beating while members of the “Committee” stood around and watched.

    This article was written by Tony McGuinness who works for the Housing Executive:-

    http://holylandswarzone.blogspot.com/2008/05/tonys-fraudulent-article.html

    My initial critique of it is here:-

    http://holylandswarzone.blogspot.com/2007/05/short-note-on-banality-of-evil.html

    I’m being prosecuted for this row at a residents’ meeting:-

    http://holylandswarzone.blogspot.com/2007/05/public-accountability.html

    And for publishing this:-

    http://holylandswarzone.blogspot.com/2007/09/katrina-wakes-up-and-smells-coffee.html

    I could go into more detail, but the long and the short of it is that the community no longer exists, public housing is being liquidated (not just here, but across the UK) and taxpayer financed Rachmanism is the new Housing Policy.

  • Damian O’Loan

    Alan,

    I saw the 100 figure before, and it justifies a sense of hopelessness. In many individual cases, I’m sure it is beyond hope. But surely a time will come when people simply stop choosing to rent in the area – as I understand it, this has already begun. I think too many empty houses will have an effect. I take your point on the policy being nationwide, but as you say there are some specific local circumstances at play. These could eventually call SOCA into play. I can’t see a half-empty Holylands being a prime choice for anyone cleaning up anything. That’s why at some point I think the tables have to turn, or at least the area must become tolerable, if not appealing, for all students, and therefore residents too. If the average lease was then more valuable, the area would also be more valuable in the way you suggest. I know all this is little comfort to those who are elderly and suffer daily. In terms of the long-term prospects of the area though, I do think there is cause for some hope. I’ll just suggest again that the calmer your language, the more chance you have of making progress.

    At the very least, I’m sure you’d prefer a refugee or migrant family next door – I know I’d be happy.

    Again, I’m very sorry for what you’ve gone through there, and wish you all the best with your continued (non-aggressive) campaign.

  • Damian,
    I’m afraid it’s not possible to talk in terms of turning the area around. It has become a magnet for “dodgy characters” especially as the provos are advocating eviction as a means of offloading troublesome elements rather than the more traditional methods. In the absence of priority housing points such people drift into the private sector and prefer somewhere anonymous. It is known that registered sex offenders are being housed in the area. A certain landlord, whom I will not name, boasts,
    “There’s good money in them paedos”
    The area will become steadily more dangerous for “students” and the inevitable event will happen. However this means that the area will eventually become undesirable for anyone. You cannot recreate a community there. It is a slum and can only get worse. I’m afraid that no amount of wishful thinking can change that.

  • Damien,
    I had to google SOCA; Serious Organised Crime Agency.

    I’m making assumptions here, so correct me where I’m wrong. Because the landlords are up to their armpits in criminal activity their properties could be forfeit in the event of proper criminal investigations and seized by the Assets Recovery Agency. This has already happened to a landlord in West Belfast and over 40 properties were seized and sold. If the landlords in the Holyland were done over rightly their houses could end up in the hands of the state. They could then be used to house families.

    Now these are my assumptions and they may or may not describe your argument. If I’m shooting down a straw man here I apologise. The big landlords will not be prosecuted for a number of reasons, all of them political, some of them unique to Northern Ireland. On he broader level Rachmanism is government policy. Nicholas Van Hoogstraaaten, for example, will never have his properties seized and the courts have quite literally allowed him to get away with a contract killing. On the local level the provos are allowed to run their huge criminal empire unhindered by any but token prosecutions. After all, Conor Murphy is allowed to justify the beating to death of a man by his people by suggesting that he was a “criminal”; code for business rival to their cross border racketeering.

    In the hypothetical case of many properties being seized in the Holyland what is the state to do with them? Families can be put in them, but is this appropriate? Recreating a community there is like putting the toothpaste back into the tube. The “students” will not go away, at least until they start dying, but this will only make it clear that the area is a dumping ground. The state would almost certainly sell the properties and let the market do what it wants with them. Of course we are then back to the dirty money issue and round we go in circles. If the properties were sold the money could then be used to build housing of a high standard. Think of houses that heat themselves all year round. I think this would be preferable to putting families into housing that is environmentally and financially ( >35 pounds per week, 1,800 per year) unsustainable. Of course we’re getting into a larger discussion and I may have misunderstood you completely. Let me know.

  • Update:-
    all three charges were dismissed. Free speech was upheld. I’ll let you know more later.

  • Gregory Carlin

    “One is Alan Murray’s seeming support for crime as a form of resistance. That could lead to allegations of the crime below”

    Ingrid Betancourt

    Gregory Carlin