“Some people, it seems, are indispensable even if they do lie in the cemetery”

I don’t think Slugger has mentioned the death of Basil McLaughlin one of the founders of the Andersonstown News. His passing has been noted by Gerry Adams, Mairtin and the BBC.

I hope the Belfast Media Group puts online the fantastic insert in this week’s edition that mainly paid tribute to him through the photographs he took over decades. Looking through the small number of photographs they had room for emphasised his role in ensuring community and political life particularly in West Belfast was covered not just from outside but within.

[picture via BBCNI who give a BMG credit]

  • old school

    I wonder when he founded the Andersonstown News, did he think it would go on to become the British funded, joke of a newspaper it now is.
    Gerry gets paid 600 quid an hour to write dull articles there.
    Do they sell THAT many papers??

  • I spent 7 years working in Teach Basil and thoroughly enjoyed my time there. It was my privilege also to know Basil himself and he was a true gentleman.
    The Andytown News and the other titles in the group are no joke and, as far as funding goes, I’d say that the Group has generated more revenue for the local community and, through taxes, for ‘Britain’ than it has received. It’s as entitled as any other newspaper to seek funding from HMG – both the Irish News and the Telegraph have received sizeable grants in the past. Would the unemployed dissident republican decline the dole because it was British funded?

  • granni trixie

    What position did Basil take on SF or the IRA? Anyone know?

    I mean the A’Town News is hardly directed at a broad church,is it? In its favour it certainly reflected the local community ‘news’..but against that it never was off message,sticking to SF line although never as extreme as An Publact(sorry about Iris misspelling).

    Perhaps a focus on a republican viewpoint is why it never reflected the diversity you find in Andytown etc.

  • Scaramoosh

    “never reflected the diversity you find in Andytown etc.”

    Yes, like the indigenous Unionist population …

  • Alias

    “Would the unemployed dissident republican decline the dole because it was British funded?” – Concubhar

    No, and they wouldn’t decline there other main source of funding either, i.e. cash payments from the security services.

    There was circa 300 to 400 active Provos at any one time, yet there was circa 100 active FRU agents on their books and a similiar number on the books of Special Branch. Now add in MI5, MI6, CIA, FBI, C3 agents and you’re looking at the majority of the Provos/Shinners working for the British state.

  • FitzjamesHorse

    An interesting debate surely to be had from those that might believe that The Andersonstown News reflected West Belfast opinion or led it in a Republican direction.
    In part it was always going to be an alternative to The Irish News which was perceived as being “too rural” (frankly West Belfast is not South Down) and “too SDLP” orientated.
    As I have mentioned in previous posts the SDLP thru having maverick SELFISH personalities like Fitt and SAINT Paddy Devlin never really embedded itself into West Belfast.
    The SDLP was dismissive of Andytown News as a tacky and amateurish newsheet. It has never really recovered from making THAT mistake..
    The SDLP I think also felt Andytown News was hostile but less so than the Belfast Telegraph which the SDLP assidiously courts.
    Yet oddly the Andytown News is a victim of its own success……to get a readership it had to retreat into a West Belfast bunker…..but to expand it necessarily has to leave that bunker.

  • granni trixie

    Yet strangely AN never sunk to the low of An Publact in glorying every time say a soldier or a policeman was murdered by IRA, sticking to a kind of moral code acceptable to its readership.

    VERY interesting point made by FitzjamesHorse – did AN lead people in Rep. direction.Dont know myself.

    (and sorry again ’bout Irish spelling,dont mean to disrespect…can anyone help me with the spelling? )

  • Prionsa Eoghann

    >>There was circa 300 to 400 active Provos at any one time, yet there was circa 100 active FRU agents on their books and a similiar number on the books of Special Branch. Now add in MI5, MI6, CIA, FBI, C3 agents and you’re looking at the majority of the Provos/Shinners working for the British state.<< Wasn't it great for the British to create and fund the conditions that led to the conflict, even sustaining it because they had so many of the protaganists in their pockets considering that we know of their dealings with Unionist death squads as well. Twas only fair then that they shared in a wee bit of the suffering, oh and the fact that their world wide reputation was severely besmirched, what with human rights abuses and the like.

  • FitzjamesHorse

    An PUBlact is more accurate than you think. But yes An Poblacht was the direct mouthpiece of the IRA.
    Thank you for thinking I made an interesting point…….its not like me……but I think the answer is not a simple yes or no.
    Events ….the violence…..the reaction (over reaction?) to that violence. Probably a cumulative effect. Or as likely a deep seated tribal loyalty.
    Logically the choices people make should be “different” so its intriguing that the choices should be so similar.
    I would imagine that most people in West Belfast would over 30 years come accross rather unpleasant military or RUC people. And….rather uncomfortably for Republicans most have been indebted at one time or another to the the RUC (missing kids, road accidents, burglaries etc).

    Likewise most have come accross rather unpleasant IRA people and quite possibly at times rather pleasant ones.
    So I am led to believe that Tribal Loyalty…..or in a broader sense NATIONAL LOYALTY trumps all.
    In the context of Andytown News it probably just re-inforced the notion.

  • granni trixie

    When I mentioned diversity in A’town I was actually thinking of people like myself who had no idea who was in the Ra. This might be more widespread,possibly to be found in pockets or be age related.

    For example I once researched the corporals killings – talked to a priest about the homily he gave after the CK near St Agnes parish – he told me to my surprise that there would only be around say 3 prisoners families in the parish. A reason people might think otherwise is because many Republican funerals would be held there or in St Teresas up the Glen Rd which also had few porisoners families ( as a marker of IRA involvcement) because of convenience to Milltown Cemetry but that the person dead might belong to a parish from, say, Twinbrook or Poleglass.

  • FitzjamesHorse

    Oh I think its certainly age related.
    And indeed a chronology.
    The corporals killings was 1988 so we are by that stage long past the age of internment or even the peak years of violence in 1971-1975.
    Indeed in the early 1970s the IRA was based on companies and batallions with clearly defined geographical areas.
    It was surprisingly not very secret. Newspapers like the Sunday Times “Insight” routinely mentioned “names”. So infamously did Brigadier Farrar Hockley on TV News.
    It was common currency that the Provisionals were formed by effectively some IRA families.
    You also have to take account of the demographics of Belfast parishes.
    St agnes was I would consider slightly more upmarket than St Teresas and as late as the 1960s it was believed that if you wanted to talk to a policeman in Riverdale all you had to do was knock on the wall. A surprising number lived in the area.
    Twinbrook was only built circa 1970. Poleglass later.
    The age profile (teenagers etc) was more likely at an earlier stage in Turf Lodge, Ballymurphy.
    Incidently Holy Trinity would not have been built and neither would Corpus Christi or Matt Talbot.

    Intra Parish demographics plays as big a part as Age.

  • granni trixie

    You implicitely make a point so I obviously have not put over what I intended – you seem to assume that ‘everyone’ around those parishes knew who the IRA were. But I do not think this is correct. An element which thinks of itself as ‘respectable'(ie conventional Catholics you find in places such as Gransha “up the road”). Or even like myself who is not religious but who just thought of the Ra as criminality,no ifs or buts. I always think of an (awful) study by an American, Jeff Sluka, who conducted a participant observer study of Divis flats. He assumed that the world view of people around there was the same as that of all of W.Belfast. He may dine out on his study but to me it is crap – he just went native,lapped up the spin and generalised.

    [BTW St Agnes more upmarket? Splitting hairs surely?]

  • FitzjamesHorse

    No not splitting hairs….on St Teresa and St Aggies.
    I think that was the general assumption.
    Catholics are so to speak…a broad church…and I dont see Gransha Catholics as being more respectable than Divis Flats Catholics.
    If they are not as homogenous as we are led to believe, I dont think that we can use words like Respectable as it would seem rather arrogant.

    Obviously if people DID know who was in the IRA, then it would bea criminal offence not to pass on that information. And as Gerry Adams is unaware he was a member, we must assume that this is the position.
    I would have thought that a parent wishing to steer a teen child away from certain things might well have made it their business to know with whom their kids were associating.

    I suspect…to use a perhaps unfair comparison…parents might well make it their business to know who the “joyriders” and “drug dealers” are.
    If the parents dont know …its a safe bet the kids know.

  • granni trixie

    For clarification- I use ‘respectible’ in an ironic sense – to draw attention to those for whom a self image of respectibility is how they differentiate themselcves from others they deem ‘not respectible’.

    As for me – I would rejoice in my unrespectibility!

  • FitzjamesHorse

    oh I am sure I am equally if not more unrespectable.
    It is my most endearing quality. 😉

  • Concubhar’s above post is a fairly straightforward attempt to re-write history. Parliamentary questions tabled at the time of the Daily Ireland launch confirmed that the A’town News group had received substantial grants, totalling over £600,000, in recent years. The three existing Belfast dailies were allocated no public money over the previous five years. The Telegraph received funding in connection with a new press some 20 year previously, but the other two titles got nothing. Concubhar’s suggestion that the A’town News was treated in the same way as its commercial rivals is simply untrue.

  • If you’re going to rehash history, old hack, why don’t you tell the entire story?
    For instance, the reason the Andersonstown News Group as it then was, was in receipt of £600,000k over a number of years is that this was grant aid in respect of the publication of Lá, the only Irish language daily newspaper ever published (in fact the only Celtic language daily newspaper!).
    The reason the British government grant aided this newspaper was that it was committed,under the European Charger for Minority Languages, to do so. This was a commitment it entered into freely, by the way, thinking that supporting an existing newspaper was better than starting up one from nought.
    The Andersonstown News Group didn’t get that gig because of any ;’side deals’ either. It got the gig because it was publishing the said newspaper with nominal grant aid [from the British and Irish Governments via Foras na Gaeilge] since it purchased the title in 1999. This increased in 2003 when it transformed from a weekly to a daily paper and in 2006 the Foras announced that it was opening the publication of a daily Irish language news publication [not paper!] to public tender. In this contest the ANG went head to head with the Irish News – and won.
    I was editor of Lá Nua from 2005-February 2008 and before that I was the deputy editor.
    I have no exact details about the funding of the three other newspapers in Belfast – but I do know that they received funding more recently than 20 years ago. In any case each of the three newspapers is or at least was party to a sweet heart deal, which wasn’t open to public tender, to publish all public advertising. They each received a slzeable slice of public cash pie each year, leaving the receipts of the Andersonstown News Group in respect of the loss making Lá very much in the shade….
    The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth….

  • Concubhar, in post no 2 above, you wrote;`It’s (the A’town News) as entitled as any other newspaper to seek funding from HMG – both the Irish News and the Telegraph have received sizable grants in the past.’ You now admit(post no 17), `I have have no exact details about the funding of the three other newspapers in Belfast…’ In other words, you were spoofing.

    As you know very well, advertising contracts and grants from public funds are entirely separate areas. You never mentioned advertising in your first post, and using it to try and justify your misleading claims over grants is pretty feeble. The reason that Daily Ireland and La got very limited government advertising was the very low circulation which led to their ultimate collapse. The Andersonstown News has a reasonable sale and therefore gets a similar level of government advertising as other weekly titles.

    Finally, the main grants which the A’town News received were for a new printing press and office accommodation (see Hansard June 30, 2005). This was very special treatment which not extended to the other papers during the same period. The money you mention for La was unconnected and is another red herring.

  • granni trixie

    Can’t help chipping in here – I had a student Indian friend (turban and all) who used to deliver La (think it was the 80s, but cant remember why). He now lives a sort of prince like existence in ‘back home’. Hope he has fond memories of his times with La.

  • old school

    No Concubhar, not all dissident Republicans are unemployed. Your sneering attitude to those unfortunate to be unemployed in this day and age, has also been noted.
    So “new rich”.
    The point about State funding for newspapers, which you can´t grasp is the issue of “conflict of interest”
    They are hardly going to bite the hand that feeds them. And Andytown News certainly don´t.
    Care to defend Gerry´s 600 quid an hour scribbling fee in one of the most deprived areas of Europe?

  • The Belfast Telegraph’s parent company, Independent Newspapers, received backing from INI for the location of printing presses in Newry in 2007. A far cry from the ’20 years ago’ you quoted earlier, Old Hack. And I have a strong sense or hunch, maybe I’m spoofing, that the figure involved in this case was far more than £600,000.


    I’m not saying it’s wrong for a company which is investing a sizable chunk of cash in an economy to get a leg up – but you’re entirely wrong to suggest that the Belfast Media Group/ANG is the only newspaper in NI to get such ‘very special’ treatment.

    As for your claim that the £600,000 quoted in your initial post was mainly for the print works, the figures disprove this. At least £450,000. was for Lá – which is more than the £270,000 odd that went towards the print works and offices.

    These companies, the Belfast Media Group and the Bel Tel generate income for NI and they’re entltled to seek funding and, if they qualify, receive it.

    The advertising question is another issue – as far as I know the BMG are still involved in a legal wrangle with the Executive over its refusal to allow it tender for public procurement advertising contracts. That isn’t to say that the Andytown News doesn’t get an occasional public ad – but that much, of itself, was hard won by successful legal struggles through the years as Belfast City Council will attest.