Brief thoughts on the utility of ‘breaking the rules’…

Interesting to hear the focus of the debate shift from homelessness around Occupy’s, erm occupation of the old art deco Bank of Ireland building (prompted we think by Gerry pointing out they’d had their metaphorical tanks parked on the wrong lawn) on Monday’s Nolan to a raft of issues yesterday. Amongst them the destruction of Belfast’s built heritage, and the latent value of empty property.

The very inchoat nature of the protest. Caller after caller accused the protesters of doing something akin to moving into someone else’s house, and suggesting that this property (which in my limited experience of walking past it) has been empty for a considerable period of time, might be being prepared for some constructive use by it’s private owner.

Interestingly when one of the occupiers (a better word than protestor, I think) he said they would welcome contact with the owner and might, he suggested come to some kind of understanding if not agreement about what might happen next.

What’s been refreshing has been the very leftfield nature of the occupation. The discussion on Monday was nicely capped by a touch of PR genius from DUP press guy Chris Stalford who agreed with the protestors without seeming to approve of their actions by giving out a phone number relating to homelessness. But the continuance of the occupation has merely allowed the conversation to move on.

It’s been a long time coming. But I suspect the impact of a group of people acting outside of the normal rules of engagement may yet have a refreshing effect on public discourse in a space where almost every form of political discourse is defined and controlled by an incumbency that’s rarely troubled by an effective ‘challenge function’ beyond a reflexive tabloid ire at any figure of public expenditure that ‘looks’ big.

Eamonn McCann has said, more than once, that protest works. But it’s not just the protest that matters. Occupy may be demonstrating that it’s the breaking of comfortable public narratives and public expectation that can work. In Belfast people once did that by blowing up its built environment to jerk people out of ‘business as usual’.

In that sense, the occupation of the old BOI may have worked, even if it only creates the space to see the familiar in very different terms. Perhaps our politicians up on the hill might learn a trick or two?

  • edgeoftheunion

    Intelligent protest works.

    Even rather mindless protest can finally work if the reaction to it is even more bone-headed than the original protest. The Easter Rising is a perfect example of this principle.

  • Dec

    There was nothing ‘mindless’ about the Easter Rising. And you don’t have to be a Nationalist to appreciate that point.

  • Harry Flashman

    “…they would welcome contact with the owner and might, he suggested come to some kind of understanding if not agreement about what might happen next.”

    To which the only response from the owner should be;

    “Get the fuck out of my property, what I lawfully choose to do with my property is none of your Goddamned business”

    We live in a land of laws, we tried thirty years of unlawful collective protest action, it wasn’t a great success let’s go back to respecting the law and people’s individual rights.

    Get out of the building Occupy, it’s not your property.

  • edgeoftheunion

    Dec
    Agreed. Substitute ‘obviously doomed’.

  • edgeoftheunion
  • cynic2

    Can the developer just lock them in and cut off the power for all those iphones and macs. Leave it for 5 years and see what evolves

  • Mick Fealty

    There is a difference between property development and speculation. I’m not sure which category this individual falls into but I’ve not seen any signs development around that site.

  • Harry Flashman

    “There is a difference between property development and speculation.”

    Not unless the development is some sort of government development or not for profit affair, if it is a commercial venture it is speculation, all business is ultimately speculation.

    Either way unless property speculation has been outlawed the owner of the property is entitled to use it in any way, within the law, that he sees fit.

    It is not for self-appointed groups, without any mandate or legal cause, to misuse other people’s property or dictate how citizens can use their lawfully-owned property.

    I believe Somalia is a nation built on disrespecting property rights and appropriating the property of others, I’m not convinced that’s quite the direction we as a society need to take.

    Like I say we tried anarchic violence and illegal protest for years, let’s try respecting laws and other people’s rights and property for a change.

  • sliabhluachra

    There was a god programme on tv a few nights ago about people occupying buildings in London. Such low level, anti social riff raff. They left the owner with huge bills to clean up their mess. These peopel are not progressive; they are a$$hole$.

  • Neil

    Squatter’s rights Harry is what they’re claiming. If they have their ducks in order then those laws will protect their occupation for some time.

  • Harry Flashman

    “If they have their ducks in order then those laws will protect their occupation for some time.”

    Eventually they will be removed at great expense and inconvenience to the lawful owners of the property, that is an injustice against law-abiding citizens.

    I believe in property rights and the rule of law.

    The forcible confiscation or use of property against the wishes of the lawful owners is not pretty when little knob-ends joy ride in other people’s cars and it isn’t any nicer because a bunch of yahoos claim a political motivation.

  • edgeoftheunion

    Unusually well timed article?

    “Nama currently holds £3.35 billion of loans in Northern Ireland which perhaps explains why some property developers believe that as far as the local market is concerned it should be renamed “Nama-land”.”

    http://www.thedetail.tv/issues/1/uncertainly-causing-property-paralysis-in-%E2%80%98nama-land%E2%80%99/uncertainty-causing-property-paralysis-in-%E2%80%98nama-land%E2%80%99

  • edgeoftheunion

    “Just under one third of Nama’s loan portfolio by value is based in Belfast which has given rise to a new and deadly serious guessing game about which of the city’s prime locations are now under the agency’s direct influence.”

  • Neil

    Eventually they will be removed at great expense and inconvenience to the lawful owners of the property, that is an injustice against law-abiding citizens.

    But the protestors are abiding by the law. The law protects squatters whether you approve or not.

    I believe in property rights and the rule of law.

    Or rather the rule of law where it’s in approximate agreement with your own principles. You clearly don’t seem to approve much of the law which protects these particular squatters.

  • Can we stick to an essential point, one raised by Harry Flashman? It goes like this:

    … the only response from the owner should be;

    “Get the fuck out of my property, what I lawfully choose to do with my property is none of your Goddamned business”

    We live in a land of laws, we tried thirty years of unlawful collective protest action, it wasn’t a great success let’s go back to respecting the law and people’s individual rights.

    Try the soul-less and depressing Golf Club at Portadown, Harry. Built on the ruination of Carrickblacker House: by all accounts a fine (if decayed) early-17th century house, destroyed as recently as the 1980s.

    Try the plutocratic moans from the residents of The Bishops Avenue, Hampstead, one of the most “expensive” streets in Europe, complaining of Saudi “royals” and Libyan dictators whose palatial residences remain unoccupied and decaying for years. [Context — the Libyan one is condoned “squatted”: the Saudi one, not so. Explain, please.]

    Try any of a thousand properties in between. See if the neighbours agree with you. Many long-term squats have actually improved the situation — just like a decent strike lances the boil. We have, believe it or not, Harry, moved on from Petrel, Tolpuddle and transportation to God-forsaken parts of the planet.

    I’ve seen several Occupy encampments, including three capital cities. They have a point. There are perhaps a dozen “Occupy”-types in the Royal Avenue building. Evict them, and it’ll be hundreds. Don’t make a rod for the back of the RUC.

    Quite frankly, trying to drive them out won’t make the issue disappear. Soon, with about-to-be three million plus UK unemployed, and half-a-million in Ireland, the unlawful collective protest might become uncontainable.

    Bottom line: twice in the last couple of days (and from very unlikely mouths) I have heard the phrase “pre-/almost revolutionary situation/context”.

  • I know I had a pair of cockatoos in my NorfLunnun garden at 9.59 am this morning. That doesn’t excuse the predictive-spelling typo of “Petrel” for “Peterloo” in the above.

  • aquifer

    ‘the impact of a group of people acting outside of the normal rules of engagement’

    Yep those Civil Rights marchers won all the arguments, then some hoodlums hijacked the revolution drove it down the traditional route and burned it in the name of sectarian separatism.

    The bank building occupants expose a structural failure of capitalism where mere speculators blight areas for decades without paying anybody anything, often leaving culturally important buildings vulnerable to decay and arson.

    This could be a key moment to ask what could be done in these buildings, as there will be a lot of empty buildings for a long time as internet retailing hollows out the retail sector, and a lot of idle young people as the western economy flounders.

  • Rory Carr

    Harry Flashman really shouldn’t be so hard on those occupying empty property. After all it’s not as if they actually intend to steal it, to permanently deny ownership to existing owner/occupiers as was the case when the marauding Norman forebears of Britain and Ireland’s landed gentry dispossessed those whose land and livliehood they took for their own amidst great slaughter and suffering, only in order to promulgate sacred legislation conferring inviolability on property rights greater than those with which Rome could bind its most sacred holy of holies – the tabernacle itself and the Sacred Host therein. The difference of course was that now the property was all theirs and they intended that it should be theirs and their heirs and their heirs’ heirs in perpetuity. Perhaps the finest example of the pretense of morality inherent in law exposed as a moveable feast of which we know.

    Harry proudly and righteously proclaims, “I believe in property rights and the rule of law.” as though the two were co-dependent, that one would inevitably fall without the other which is patently nonsense. It is true that without the rule of law then existing property rights might be in trouble but the corollary does not hold. Indeed unless existing property rights are re-evaluted and subject to sweeping reform we might find that it will be the ruthless, heartless defence of them upon which the rule of law will founder.

    Unlike Harry, I am not so hot on property rights nor even it has to be said maintaining a pretence of their being something sacred about the rule of law. For me the questions have always been, “What law? Whose law?” I do not commit myself to purchasing a pig in a poke just because a bewigged judge, a bemedalled copper or preening politician ensures me that his particular porky will sustain my family in health forever (and besides I had better buy it if I know what’s good for me).

    It is over 40 years now since I first squatted council property in East Down, a three-bedroomed house which had been blatantly unfairly allocated to the single, childless secretary of a local Unionist councillor (awarded as a local Nationalist council favour which awaited scratch-my-back return in due course). The council effectively said to me and my NICRA comrades guarding the property and the homeless family of father, pregnant mother and two infant children we had squatted therein,

    ““Get the fuck out of my property, what I lawfully choose to do with my property is none of your Goddamned business !”

    though not in those precise words. We refused and maintained that it was very much our business as is the disposition of empty property anywhere need arises which it might fulfill and which is being denied by virtue of that property being left deliberately unused for reasons of potential profit that might be gained by its future disposal.

    When Proudhon declared that “All property is theft !” (well, “La propriété, c’est le vol!” is what he actually said, being a Frenchman), a saying often attributed to Marx who did indeed echo that sentiment somewhat but later pointed out its inherent contradiction, insofar as that which is theft cannot therefore be property. Marx drew the clear distinction between personal property – goods produced by an individual or the fruits of one’s labour whether by hand or brain which would include one’s personal possessions and essentials for life and work and leisure and reasonable comfort, including one’s home (perhaps even a holiday residence by the sea) and private property which is defined as,

    “…the means of production in reference to private enterprise based on socialized production and wage labour…”

    The means of production, essentially the sacred land and the God-given fruits of the earth, belong to all and the fruits of labour rightfully belongs to those whose labour was expended in its production. All wealth is none other than the result of the application of man’s hand to the God-given fruits of the earth and in this respect the retention of private property in order that a speculator might profit from its misuse (or indeed lack of use) is an act of deprivation that is little more than theft.

    As anyone who has had their home burglarised in recent times will attest, the law seems to pay little attention to the theft of personal property citing lack of manpower as a reason for its lethargy in active pursuit of the offending party and the restitution of one’s personal effects. But let anyone dare threaten the private property of a local supermarket, say whether it be a desperate mother shoplifting a loaf (echoes of Les Miserables ?) or a picket protesting some policy or other of the supermarket conglomerate’s policy so threatening its image (another form of private property in this skewbald world of capital) and, whoosh !, the Plod are not so plodding then are they ?

  • Harry Flashman

    You miss a blindingly obvious point in your screed Rory, the house you squatted in was not “owned” by the “council”, it was public property which was being misused by a political organisation.

    The bank building is private property bought and paid for by lawfully earned (if you know otherwise I can provide you with Crimestoppers number) money for the lawful use of private individuals within the terms of planning laws, building codes, fire regulations etc.

    If you want to overthrow the law and allow gangs of unaccountable individuals to decide who may use your property do come out and say so. In your haste to overthrow the judges and policemen why don’t we introduce lynch law and kangaroo courts while we’re at it?

    Let me make an analogy for those property-owners, and I dare say most posters here fit into that category, so keen to see other people’s property appropriated.

    Imagine you are a car dealer, you buy cars, not to drive them but to sell them, sell them at a *gasp* profit. You keep your cars locked and immobile in your premises until such time as someone is prepared to pay you enough money to persuade you to part with them. You may not get the price you want, you may make a loss, that is the chance you take, you are a “speculator”.

    Others however see your cars not being used, they haven’t got cars, they have to walk everywhere, are they entitled to forcibly enter your premises and use your cars against your will?

    If so, can others who don’t have a spare room, use yours? What about the people who don’t have as many shoes as your wife can they forcibly enter your bedroom and wear your wife’s clothes?

    Respect others’ property rights, abide by the law, if you object to the law, elect people to change them.

    As I have now repeatedly said, we tried the alternative for thirty years, the bloodied corpses being scraped off the pavement should have convinced us by now that peaceful and law-abiding protest which respects our opponents’ human, civil and legal rights is the only way forward.

  • the lawful use of private individuals within the terms of planning laws, building codes, fire regulations etc.

    Interesting change of tack, Sir Harry. You again concede that absolute rights of ownership have limitations imposed by the wider society.

    Now consider a bit further. On 9th March, 2011, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi’s mansion (all eight bedrooms, swimming pool, sauna room, Jacuzzi and cinema room) in Hampstead Garden Suburb was occupied by political protesters, Libyan refugees and their sympathisers, who claim to have taken possession in the name of the Libyan people.

    The legal owners are a faceless corporation in the Virgin Islands. The beneficial owner is in gaol, held in Zintan, but also wanted by the ICC. “The Sword of Islam” had/has powerful friends — the odd Rothschild, several Russian plutocrats, Tony Blair, peripatetic British Royals and similar undesirables pillars of society.

    So, Sir Harry, what is your legal take here? What’s the balance between bloodied corpses being scraped off the pavement and human, civil and legal rights?

    The Barnet police await your guidance.

    Then we can address the scandalous neglect of landmark buildings in Belfast. Do the people of Belfast have any rights in their urban landscape (notably that bit up the Crumlin Road)? Or is everything up for exploitation? Was Henry right with History is more or less bunk. It’s tradition. We don’t want tradition. We want to live in the present and the only history that is worth a tinker’s dam is the history we made today? [The history made that day, 25 May 1916, included the imposition of the Conscription Act and Sassoon winning his M.C. — not many people know that.]

  • Harry Flashman

    “So, Sir Harry, what is your legal take here?”

    Haven’t a clue mate, why ask me? I have no doubts the courts will sort out ownership and that is how it should be.

    There is no change of tack, I never referred to absolute property rights Malc, read my very first post.

    “what I lawfully choose to do with my property is none of your Goddamned business”

    Abide by the law, that’s what I believe in.

    Just for the record societies based on property rights and the rule of law are the most healthy, free, fair, prosperous, egalitarian, educated, peaceful, crime free, safest and happiest societies in human history.

    Apparently some spoilt brats who have benefited from such a system want it replaced by “communal” ownership determined by agit-prop mobs.

    Hmmm, might work, has anyone ever tried it?

    Have a look;

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pol_Pot

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holodomor

  • changeisneeded

    Harry. The law is there to protect those with money. You are obviously a property owner..

  • Harry Flashman @ 7:58 am: would that take on the courts will sort out ownership and that is how it should be were so.

    In reality, the law doesn’t work, at least not in human years (though the mileage of a giant Aldabra tortoise may differ). Which is why Mick’s headline on the utility of breaking the rules is so well-chosen.

    Like many, many an elected representative, I count the scars here.

    ¶ Anyone remember Dale Farm, which was a running sore (eventually an £18 million one) for Basildon Council, from Ray Bocking’s illegal scrapyard in the 1960s until last October’s clearance?
    ¶ Alongside that Harry Hyams and Centre Point?
    ¶ The dereliction caused by failed development schemes — all the way from the Archway Road enquiries to Heathrow’s third runway (which is about to come out of enforced retirement)? Anyone fancy a property going cheap in Sipson village? Or on the route of HS2 (the Rt Hon Cheryl Gillan, MP, to advise)?

    When the world was young, I had Mr Trebus on my patch. He and the problems he caused his neighbours outlived my mandate by two decades. Trebus’s “Stick it up your chuffer” is an analogue of Harry‘s my property is none of your Goddamned business.

    Things get even worse when the property, however neglected, is owned by a big corporation or — shudder — a national government. At which point all that expensive legal advice, out of your council committee budget and involving painful virements, tends to become somewhat inconclusive. Ultimately counsel comes back with the choker, on the lines of “such action could set interesting precedents” (in plain English, all the way to the Supreme Court and five years of waiting).

    Big corporations (e.g. the Bank of Ireland in Belfast, now NAMA with Battersea Power Station) can wait for aeons for the market to change: it’s only a book transaction, after all. It’s only the neighbours, Leona Helmsley’s “little people”, who suffer, and pay their taxes.

  • Harry Flashman

    “You are obviously a property owner..”

    As you are too I’ll bet.

    May I make use of your property without your permission? No and if I do so the law will deal with me.

    Puerile, fifth-form statements like “The law is there to protect those with money”, are as relevant as Che Guevara posters.

  • changeisneeded

    Those with money and power use the law to their advantage. You are one of these people.
    I don’t trust the law in this place and would not use it.
    Have you ever stood up for anything Harry?

  • Harry Flashman

    I am standing up now for the rights of law-abiding citizens and against unaccountable mobs breaching people’s lawful rights. I have done so in the past against other much more dangerous gangs, what about you?

    Brave keyboard jockey are you?

    Are you seriously suggesting you own no property? Did you borrowed the pc you wrote your posts on?

  • changeisneeded

    Harry, I am not going to respond to your insult.
    I own very little and see this place as being a society where the people with money get more money and the people with little get nothing..
    You have capital you can make money . You don’t you don’t.
    I wonder if you where wearing my shoes would you still say the same about occupys moves.
    I think not.
    Ps. my phone is leased..

  • thethoughtfulone

    Just a pity they hadn’t done their homework a wee bit better and occupied somewhere on the books of one of the developers currently in debt to the Ulster Bank (a plentiful breed!).

    Then their occupation would have been much, much, more difficult to argue against.

  • Dear God in Heaven, Harry Flashman @ 4:20 pm, a tirade of four rhetorical questions in succession! Tut, tut!

    Standing up for people’s lawful rights? Actually, yes. My score is forceful acquisition of a Stanley knife and something off the market vegetable store, which was very, very pointed and sharp, both waved in my face and aimed at my vitals. Admittedly a dozen years apart. Oh, and a good kicking from the odd patriot who disapproved of free speech. Not forgetting a night in a Scottish cell (no charges pressed, because — actually — we were in defence of people’s lawful rights).

    We are not debating unaccountable mobs breaching people’s lawful rights: that’s anarchy. We do need to consider the gross intrusion of big corporations, big government (answerable only to itself), and the law’s interminable delays imposing pain and grief on decent, ordinary folk — the decent, ordinary folk who always end up paying the bill.

    To the punch-line: the Occupy movement has enormous support, internationally. The genie is out of the bottle, and rhetoric from Harry Flashman and his ilk will not restore the capitalist status-quo.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    You’re wrong, changeisneeded — Wozniak, Jobs, Gates, Zuckerberg — all started with nothing and went to become *very* wealthy, based on hard work and an idea.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    @MR – care to wager?

    Dunno about the ones over there, but the feckless dolts on this side of the pond alienated their neighbors and gained a level of disrepute for the drug-dealing, rapes and other “non-scheduled” events in their encampments.

    The encampments in NYC and Boston became attractive to homeless and drug-dealers, whom the occupiers tried to roust by making their menu less attractive.

    They eventually fall prey to base human impulses — the drummers claim they bring in the bulk of the money, but get short shrift, etc. Their internal bureaucracies will collapse them from within, if nothing else..

  • Rory Carr

    Fret not, Changeisneeded, whether or not your phone is rented is neither here nor there, for the ownership of personal property (which may boil down to the shirt on one’s back) is again being deliberately conflated by Harry Flashman with the concept of private property despite my having explained all that to him at 12.49am.

    Which reminds me I forgot to make a response to his dismissal of Civil Rights Movement opposition to East Down Council’s corrupt allocation of council housing as permissable only because they were misallocating the use of public property. The point is that these champions of private property had developed an arrogance that allowed them to assume that public property was theirs to dispose of as though it were within their gift to so do for this after all is the mindset that allows even the minions of capital to demand,

    ““Get the fuck out of my property, what I lawfully choose to do with my property is none of your Goddamned business !”

    of property which rightfully is intended for equitable distribution for public need.

  • Mick Fealty

    Harry,

    It’s not yet clear what protections the law affords the owners in Northern Ireland. In England and Wales they would have the right to sue them. In Scotland you can only sue if there is damage. Repeated incursions can be prevented by an injunction.

    The law holds. It’s an incursion of rights. But it is also a sign of civic life in a city that has failed to stop the destruction of a major chunk of its urban landscape. And a city that too often defers to government to make things happen.

    But it affords protection in proportion to the offence. Civil trespass is illegal. But it is not criminal, in the way burglary is or breaking and entering. The *action* of the occupiers (as opposed to their *words*) has forced a series of issues that were previously being ignored, or at least not getting heard in the public domain.

    One of the things that piqued my interest was the suggestion that the occupiers (a better term than protesters)
    would welcome dialogue with the owner. It’s a nice move, which for once cuts the state (as ‘she who will provide all’) out of the deal.

  • Dread Cthulhu @ 9:05 pm:

    Let’s make wealth acquisition the only marker! Then we can marvel at what Iraq did for Halliburton (+$17.2 billion), DynCorp ($1.44 billion for the ever-needy Exxon Corporation), Washington Group International ($931 million, and counting) … and many, many more! The business of America is business! And, yeah, yeah … those numbers are five years out of date, but they make the point. And no “hard work” by the main beneficiaries.

    All you need is a small war and a complaisant idiot in the White House, who owes a few campaign debts.

    Even so, US unemployment is pro-rata 40% lower than in Ireland.

    Meanwhile NAMA is carrying €80 billion of accrued debts on dodgy assets — somewhere between €1,500 and €2,000 for every Irish man, woman and child.

    The wonders of capitalism! Suicides up 6% year-on-year — that solves the problem, eventually! And no “hard work” needed by the main beneficiaries.

    Can’t think why people aren’t grateful.

  • damon

    I’ve seen the Occupy people there this week.
    They are such a tiny grouplet that hardly anyone in Northern Ireland is taking any notice of them I’d say.
    Even if they have some valid points of view, which I’m sure they do. But you can’t be forcing people to listen to your ”enlightened” views any more than I can butt in to private conversations in the pub and insist that people listen to me because what I’ve got to say is very important.
    Being a point of discussion on the (terrible) Stephen Nolan show is about where they belong.

    It’s a pretty ”middle class protest” at the end of the day I think, and the Occupy thing has had its day now.
    In London, the camp there at St Paul’s has more homeless people staying there than original protesters by the sound of it.
    http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/laurie-penny/2012/01/occupy-movement-london

    It’s never (ever) going to be the kind of movement that working class flute band members could get involved in I would say.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    @MR — not sure what that had to do with my exchange with CiN, but okay. I’m sure you enjoyed your rhetorical frolic.

  • changeisneeded

    Dread Cthulhu (profile) 20 January 2012 at 9:05 pm

    You’re wrong, changeisneeded — Wozniak, Jobs, Gates, Zuckerberg — all started with nothing and went to become *very* wealthy, based on hard work and an idea.

    Yes Dread
    read my comment again particularly “and see this place”
    All the above people you mentioned are not Irish. See the difference ?
    I know of 1 person my age that has made money here and that has been through being a dodgy c**t. Anyone else i known with money was born into it..

    Try again..

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Whotcha suggesting, cin? Ideas don’t happen on yer side of the pond?

  • aquifer

    Part of the attraction of private land and property is the political freedom associated with it. If you had enough land you could grow food and tell people who would like to tell you what to do to get lost. If you own a house you can close the door and do largely as you like. To get a vote get an address.

    But we can have too much of a good thing. Some people actually having more vacant buildings than they know what to do with gets in everybody else’s way, preventing people becoming economically or culturally active. ‘Free riders’ taking advantage of towns and risking their commercial collapse, subsidised by banks’ stupid soft spot for old bricks and mortar, and by police and fire services paid for by working taxpayers.

    Thankfully Sammy is on the ball, and will aggressively insist that developers pay the rates bills now due on empty property, bankrupting them if necessary to keep the market system alive by providing a new supply of cut price premises for the new cultural industries.

  • changeisneeded

    “Whotcha suggesting, cin? Ideas don’t happen on yer side of the pond?”

    Ideas happen but unless you have capital it doesn’t turn into success.

  • Harry Flashman

    The idea that the law only protects the rich and powerful is absurd nonsense and can only be believed by a naive fool who actually lives in a law-based society and has never experienced life in a society which ignores the law.

    The only thing that restrains the rich and powerful is the law, without the law the rich get even richer and more powerful.

    Look at societies without functioning laws and means to enforce property rights, do the rich and powerful live in fear in such societies? Do they heck, they thrive in such circumstances.

    Do the weak and marginalized enjoy a freer more empowered existence in such societies? Of course not, they live in daily dread that what little property they own will be taken from them at the whim of someone in power.

    Grow up, the western world, and strange though it sometimes is to believe it Northern Ireland is part of western society, with its strict laws on property rights and legal protections has the safest and most benevolent societies in which to be poor and weak.

    Trust me the poor and the marginalized have many, many more rights and protections in the UK than they do in China, Russia, and all of Africa, where the last time I checked the rich and powerful weren’t suffering unduly from the lack of functioning property laws.

    The law protects the poor, it also protects the rich, just because you don’t like the rich doesn’t mean you will be better off by overthrowing the laws which protect property.

    Have a look at history, see what happens to the little guy when clowns like those in Occupy get control of society, I gave a couple of links above, it ain’t pretty folks.

  • Harry Flashman

    Mick I don’t know the specific legal ins and outs of trespass laws in NI.

    I am posting more on the general idea of the thread that sometimes extra-legal protest can be a good thing. Not in Northern Ireland it ain’t! We tried that and it wasn’t a great success.

    The most amount of damage done to Belfast’s urban environment was done by political “activists”, who like the Occupy mob, arrogantly took on to themselves the right to act outside the law in order to impose their political values on those they saw as in power.

    As for the quote where the little gobshites said they would “discuss” with the owners how to arrange the owners property well that little gem just set my teeth on edge. The arrogant bastards, how dare they!

    They remind me of the restorative justice lot who feel that the victim has some sort of duty to engage with the criminal, where do these lunatic ideas come from and how can we return to common bloody sense?

  • People are, as ever, scared by these people because they represent change and a challenge to the staus quo. They are mirroring back to society its sometimes ridiculous values where we place a seemingly higher regard on corporations (e.g. banks) than we do on much more fundamental things such as equity or fairness.

    They tell us in fact that our society, far from being “justly governed” by a benign set of rules and laws, is in fact outside of our grasp and largely in the hands of a small number of people, mostly very rich people.

    The parochial nature of the debate so far completely misses the global nature of this movement. It has associations with all kinds of movements including anonymous, Spanish Indignants Movement, the Arab Spring. It doesn’t matter what your view, if you approve or not, but they collectively demonstrate how powerful it is to coalesce local action based on global common cause. It is a far from perfect movement but I think that it’s importance is really about how protest and engagement are evolving and that in the future we will see a very different pattern of protest and activism.

    Therefore it doesn’t matter if the Belfast protest is successful on its own or not, it’s one of thousands around the world. What it has clearly done is to raise a debate abot the issues which is the first step in building support.

    I like especially that it gets us talking about land rights and responsibilities which is always a heated topic on this island. However if you take a long view at the debate you can see it is a farce and indeed why it is more surprising that there are not many more people out there with the protestors.

    Given that Nama owns what it does across the world, and that the banks own as many properties in negative equity as they do, and the amount of tax money that underpinned the losses of those banks, it seems a tad farcical to get angry about the tactics of Belfast protestors and especially to accuse them of arrogance.

  • changeisneeded

    Harry, I normally agree with most of what you say. This subject has you rattled though , with all your insults and language you sound scared. To much to lose huh?
    You will always find the rich clinging to laws to keep them in that position. Glad to see occupy has you angry.

    Ps. Please stop with your incorrect assumptions, I have worked in a few rough places around the world and seen first hand the rich using the laws to get richer, same goes for here.

  • Widening the topic only slightly, may I propose Simon Jenkins’s piece, Don’t dismiss nimbyism – it’s the default mode of politics from yesterday’s Guardian?

    Jenkins isn’t exactly convinced that the “law”, or “representative democracy” protects one’s property, particularly so when a government is intent on creating a “legacy”, no matter what the cost. And then skews the “cost-benefit analysis” to that end:

    Each government project now comes supported by cost-benefit analysis – Ouija-board economics designed to push any public project in the direction of “makes money”. How much it makes depends on who is paying the bill. Cost benefit has entered every realm of public diction, as in Cameron’s claim that the Olympics “will make $1bn for Britain” or the cabinet’s belief that HS2 will “make £1.80” for every pound it costs. Taxpayers are left like the senile Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady, told that milk costs 69p and murmuring helplessly, “Good heavens”.

    When economists are really hard-pressed they even pretend to quantify such phenomena as working on trains, tranquillity and domestic convenience – or not as the case may be. It is like giving bankers bonuses on the grounds that it will perk up the Cotswolds. The Liberal Democrats claim to find public benefit in new railways and countryside development, but not in estuarial airports.

    As I recall, the Channel Tunnel was sold on the basis of just such a false prospectus. If you invested your money, where is it now?

    Anyway, back to Jenkins (who can actually write):

    On the BBC’s admirable Countryfile programme recently, the prime minister showed himself to be Britain’s No 1 nimby. He said he loved his Oxfordshire constituency and would no more risk the countryside “than I would risk my own children”. I hope his children are not hoping for protection from his planning framework document. But the Cameron homestead must be as secure from the “sustainable” sprawl he wants elsewhere as it is from wind turbines and high-speed trains. The only safe place to live in England just now is in a cabinet minister’s constituency.

    The lack of cabinet posts is clearly where NI is going to the dogs.

  • cynic2

    ” The only safe place to live in England just now is in a cabinet minister’s constituency”

    Oooohh ….err how shocking.

    The only “safe” place – yes, all those high speed killer trains roaming the countryside jumping off the rails to gobble up children,

    Then there are the killer windmills. Sorry …..17th Century windmills = quaint, picturesque while 21st Century ones = destroying landscape

    There needs to be some perspective on all this..

  • cynic2 @ 4:29 pm:

    all those high speed killer trains…
    Killingworth [sic]; Grayrigg; Upton Nervitt; Tebay; Potters Bar; Selby; Hatfield (I was over that one aforehand, with one hell of a jerk, but nobody took a jot of notice); Ladbrook Grove; Southall; Watford; Stafford … and that’s the score (actually 90 or so forcibly deceased) since privatisation was deemed a cute wheeze.

    the killer windmills…
    Gosh, don’t they improve the landscape! What would the view from the M2 be without them? Just what the Sperrins needed for extra rustic charm! You get planning permission in barely two months! And coming shortly there’s another 600MW worth offshore!

    Let’s quickly by-pass the begrudgers who have evidence that Californian windmills are eliminating native eagles with considerable success. Let’s not quibble that Exxon got fined $600,000 for poisoning birds, PacifiCorp $1.4 million for electrocuting them, but nobody bothers much about putting them through “green energy” blenders.

    So, Cynic, you’re not always mistaken. Can’t work out what all that has to do with the rest of the thread, though.

  • Without expecting a bit of oxidant to revive a dead thread, I hope some of Sluggerdom can access the front page of today’s London-edition of the Sunday Times [sadly £].

    It goes like this:

    Billions lost in tax dodge

    Nicholas Hellen & Cal Flynn

    More than £100billion of property in central London has been placed into offshore ownership beyond the reach of the taxman, costing the nation billions in lost revenue.

    The dodge has spread across the country, with Manchester, Leeds, Derby and even Torbay among top locations for properties held in tax havens.

    The disclosure of the scale of tax avoidance will put pressure on George Osborne, the Chancellor, to close the loop-hole in the March budget. It is understood Vince Cable, the business secretary, is pushing him to do so.

    A Land Registry inventory of 18,700 title deeds — the first such to be published — shows that in some parts of central London more than one in 20 properties are owned offshore.

    In Westminster there are 10,233 in offshore havens, and in Kensington and Chelsea, the country’s most expensive borough, there are 5,474. A random sample shows that are worth an average of £5.67m each.

    A parking space worth £100,000 and a block near the US embassy in Mayfair worth £250m are some of the assets that have been placed into overseas tax shelters.

    etc. etc.

    Four thoughts:

    ¶ Not only is all property theft, but it’s tax-free you know how.

    ¶ As bluff Sir Harry Flashman would remind us, it’s all legal.

    ¶ Hear-say has it that two former Prime Ministers (one of either tendency — work it out for yourselves) have used this device. George Osborne’s family trust is, famously, held off-shore, and has some news-worthy property interests.

    ¶ And we thought Mr Quinn plumbed the depths.

  • Harry Flashman

    “This subject has you rattled though , with all your insults and language you sound scared. To much to lose huh?”

    Yes, I live in terror that a bunch of soap-dodging, middle-class Trots from Belfast, playing at “let’s be Revolutionaries”, will fly out twenty thousand miles to occupy my modest property, maybe they could give my ten year old, second hand Nissan a tidy while they’re in it.

    No it’s quite simple I loathe communists (the simple old fashioned word which correctly describes these lowlife) and their fellow travellers with a passion. Disgusting people, absolutely repulsive, I’m a student of history, I have historical fact on my side to explain why such people and their criminal behaviour should be shunned and despised by all right-thinking humans.

    By the way, my apologies if you feel “insulted” by my rather forthright debating style, you can’t have found life easy in those ‘rough’ places you lived in if you get upset by my words, perhaps you shouldn’t get involved in political debate, maybe it’s too much for you.

  • Rory Carr

    I see that the cavalry of “all right-thinking humans” is blowing its trumpets again as it rides to the rescue of yet another right wing champion of the rights of private property.

    As one of those loathsome, disgusting, absolutely repulsive people who happens to be a communist may I assume therefore that it is my wrong-mindedness that allows me to fail completely to understand what on earth Harry Flashman thinks he can get away with a piece of nonsense prose like this:

    “I’m a student of history, I have historical fact on my side to explain why such people and their criminal behaviour should be shunned and despised by all right-thinking humans.” ?

    I have formed a habit of reading over the years (or, as Harry Flashman might have it, “I’m a student of writing”) and have gleaned enough to determine (and say in that robust, forthright, language that he loves so well) that that statement is a meaningless crock of shit !

  • Is there any chance we can introduce the occasional factoid, rather than trolling with insults?

    Last week, there was a more positive bit of news: Alex Attwood has finally issued an “urgent works” notice. It relates to 20 Crawford Square, a B1 Listing in the Clarendon Strteet, Derry, Conservation Area. The Derry Journal has a nice bit on line.

    Amazingly, this is the first ever such notice. More are promised.

    “Property rights” go both ways. The owner has the usufruct, but owes duties of care and consideration to the wider society, some of which go far further than Harry Flashman‘s narrow legalisms. Similarly, to stick to the point, that Bank of Ireland building on Royal Avenue is not wholly to my architectural taste — it hovers uncomfortably on the barriers of sub-Art Deco and Brutalism — but it is part of the street scene. Leaving it to rot should not be an option.

    Where I would diverge from the “Occupy Belfast” agenda is to note that NI is not short of housing, and it is by UK standards a very, very depressed market — consider that 30 cheapest houses for sale in Northern Ireland December 2011 feature the BelTel still has on-line. All below £50k —

    5 Enfield Street, Portstewart, County Londonderry, For Sale Asking Price £25,000 Terrace house in excellent location in Portstewart town centre. Within walking distance of local amenites and the beach. The property requires refurbishment.

    Be still my beating heart.

    What is needed is:
    ¶ to improve the transfer of properties (that takes us back to the willingness of banks and building societies to lend);
    ¶ where individuals cannot or will not cough on mortgages cheaper than renting, housing associations and co-operatives to step in;
    ¶ to impose penalties on anyone, individual or corporate, hoarding property and/or allowing it to decay;
    ¶ perhaps a bit of re-education, especially to the end that a new-build on out-of-town sprawl is not necessarily the only way to go;
    ¶ above all, to recognise that there is such a thing as society.

  • Harry Flashman

    Rory if you haven’t realised by now that the obscene political doctrine you which adhere is responsible for the most horrific and appalling acts of terror and genocide in the history of the human race there is little I can do to help you out.

    Communism = mass murder. One of the few black and white, positively ascertainable, concrete facts of history.

  • Do we now have conclusive evidence (apart from the above rant) that Harry Flashman is no more than a posturing troll? Even a closet Marxist?

    On this thread he argues “Get the fuck out of my property, what I lawfully choose to do with my property is none of your Goddamned business”.

    Elsewhere, he is arguing for the Keystone XL pipeline. That can only be delivered through invoking “eminent domain”, the sequestration of property (what we in the UK might call compulsory purchase). Another term is expropriation, as in:

    The monopoly of capital becomes a fetter upon the mode of production, which has sprung up and flourished along with and under it. Centralization of the means of production and socialization of labor at last reach a point where they become incompatible with their capitalist integument. This integument is burst asunder. The knell of capitalist private property sounds. The expropriators are expropriated.

    Source? Thought you’d never ask! Marx, K & Engels, F: Capital, vol. 1, chapter 32.

    Don’t like “integument”? Yeah, a bit pretentious — particularly when all it means is “clothing”, “covering” or even “skin”. Thomas Carlyle, though, had a bit of fun with the word in Sartor resartus: “The Hinterschlag Professors knew … of the human soul thus much: it had a faculty called Memory, and could be acted-on through the muscular integument by appliance of birch-rods.”

    Sic semper trolls.

  • Harry Flashman

    Malc. It’s been pointed out to you by other posters and I will do so again as gently as possible, your posts, whilst no doubt well researched and thoroughly erudite, are now virtually unreadable and as such usually unread.

    Concise man, try concise.

  • changeisneeded

    Yes Harry we cannot deny you have been concise..

    Your anger directed at the occupiers is the sort of ignorance I expect to hear from a illeducated nolan show caller..I am not calling you that but I think you fail to see the big picture which Malcom has so concisely pointed out..

    sure rant away, attack the little people, its easier huh? And in doing so you are defending the real criminals in society, the one who have all the money..

  • Rory Carr

    Concise man, try concise.”

    Sure, Harry, why not ? How about:

    Communism = mass murder. One of the few black and white, positively ascertainable, concrete facts of history.” ?

    Is that concise enough for you? Total opinionated tosh, but reasonably concise, I suppose. I shouldn’t be surprised if the Spectator wouldn’t lap it up if you managed to fit it into a letter to the editor on the perils of maintaining a functioning health service or a decent state education system.

  • Harry Flashman

    Rory that’s twice you’ve paid me the compliment of comparing me to a Spectator contributor, you’re too kind, I’m blushing.

    Now tell me how I’m wrong when I point out that Communism and mass murder go along like bread and jam.

  • Alias

    I doubt you’d get that reaction if you were wrong.

  • I get it! At last!

    Difficult things, facts: they occupy space which can be used for the “play-the-man” stuff.

    Even so, on Harry‘s bread-and-jam principle, Big Jim Larkin must have been a mass murderer! Not many people know that. He’d have been sound on “Occupy Belfast”, though.

    What genocide did Tom O’Flaherty (brother of the more famous Liam) commit?

    Harry, the world should be told these truths. Lay aside your self-imposed brevity, and illuminate us.

  • Harry Flashman

    Malc, the Communists do mass murder, it’s their speciality, you’d think you would have noticed this simple historical fact in all those books you claim to have read.

    Tom O’Flaherty (who he?) and Jim Larkin didn’t get their hands on the levers of power. Had they done so I see no reason to suspect that, if as you say they were Communists, they wouldn’t have indulged in a wee spot of purging and mass murder of their ideological opponents.

    Pol Pot, Lenin, Ho Chi Minh, Fidel Castro, Nicolae Caucescu, Enver Hoxha, Mao Tse Tung, and all the other ghastly parade of Commie mass murderers across Latin America, Asia, Europe and Africa were probably nice guys before they got into power.

    What makes you think Irish Communists in power would have been any nicer than any other nation’s Communists who immediately indulged in mass murder whenever they got the chance?

    Dam those historical facts Malc, they catch you out all the time.

    Where’s Rory by the way? He always scarpers when I hand his arse to him, not like Malcolm he always comes back for more, bless.

  • Today’s tutorial, ladies and gentlemen, is on the topic of the arrant troll (monstrum horriblé antipodalé), currently a pestilence in these parts …

    [Doubtless to be continued ad nauseam. In the interim, kindly view the specimen @ 4:36 am above.]

  • Harry Flashman

    Still neither you nor Rory have been able to rebut my simple assertion that Communism and mass murder are synonymous.

    Can’t rebut facts, can you?

  • changeisneeded

    and you have not been able to rebut my assertion that people with money fear change, the more money the more they fear it..
    eg. Harry Flashman

  • Go on, Harry Flashman @ 9:43 am, break your ingrained habit of unsupported “assertion”. Give us a hard, unadorned, detailed fact — then we can agree or rebut. Otherwise spouting out such stuff here is trolling.

    If that’s how you get your rocks off, we’ll look the other way while you pleasure yourself.

    There is, by the way, another “assertion” out there — no more a “fact” than anything put up so far by Harry — that:

    809 million people have died in religious wars. That’s nearly a billion people.
    Oftentimes, a retort is that secular ideals and Godless Communism have killed many more. It is true that Stalin, among others, slaughtered his own people by the millions during the industrialization of Soviet Russia. By comparison, 209 million have died in the name of Communism. Some 62 million died during World War II, civilian and military, on all sides. Conclusively, more people have died in the name of religion than in the name of Communism or Hitler, or the two combined times two.

    Quite what any of that has to do with “Occupy Belfast” totally eludes me.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    MR: Still playing shell games — rather than answer the assertion in play, you simply play another assertion.

    I would point out that the religious assertion is over *how* many centuries, as opposed the spare couple of decades that brought up Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Che, et al and ad nauseum. What do you think Communism’s number would be when extrapolated out to an honestly comparable basis re: time??

  • This conversation has gone from the sublime to the ridiculous. We started off questioning the motives and the rights or wrongs of the Occupy protesters to take over a semi derelict commercial property in Belfast. We kind of established that they do have a certain amount of legal authority to do this and by most commenters views, a huge amount of moral right to do this. There was an opportunity to raise a debate about the potential impact of this on awareness of the public at large. We see that there are some who are opposed to the move, some vehemently so and we got to the point where that opposition was questioned or challenged. Since then it has descended into farce and whether this was a skillful diversion or mere sounding off already held deeply opinions and assumptions, I for one don’t know and am not that bothered to know. What is interesting to me is the idea that what they are doing is challenging status quo and bending people’s assumptions about their motives.

    To me it seems that this debate highlights the inutility of engaging in a mainstream debate about these issues as there is little sign of genuine exploration, willingness to consider another view point, an idea that the values and traditions that we hold so dearly in this part of the world might actually be part of the problem, and believe me there is a problem.

    There is no end of paradox and conflicts between what we know is right and acting on it. All over the world people are stuck in penury and ill health with few rights – largely to do with the economic system that is staunchly defended in this part of the world. It is driving centralisation, wealth hoarding, asset grabbing, pacts with very unsavoury regimes. It is seemingly far removed from us so we can in the comfort of our homes and offices pontificate about tactics, when all the while things do not improve anywhere.

    Seen from a distance the system that we have created is being propped up at all costs. Some of the alternatives to the system are downright scary. However it doesn;t prevent us sensing that the system is unsustainable and that it leads to types of crazy behaviours we see from politicians, media, business leaders, and even from people who should know better.

    It’s hard to stand in the midst of the changes being wrought by global forces and to analyse them dispassionately. What is fairly obvious to many is that the current system is not working for most people. We don;t know what the change and subsequent system looks like – that is to be debated and agreed among many more people than who designed the current system. There are scenarios you could play out – of which of course communism and capitalism could be options. Neither of them work but that doesn;t mean there are not values within them that are not useful to adopt.

    This is no longer about parochial issues of property rights in Belfast, this is way bigger. Get with the picture.

    Occupy, inspired by the revolutionary direct action of the Arab Spring will be undone by cynicism but we all know that cynicism has little to offer that compels or that is positive.

    I’d like to read people’s ideas for how to improve society and without disregard for global issues and I think in that context the level of insight and debate can be raised to something befitting the scale of the challenge. can that be the outworking of some apple-using youthful idealists who while not exactly setting fire to themselves in the market place, are at least brave enough to pose questions to a smug society far too at ease with itself?

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Michael: “Occupy, inspired by the revolutionary direct action of the Arab Spring will be undone by cynicism but we all know that cynicism has little to offer that compels or that is positive. ”

    As the so-called “Arab Spring” chills its way into the Islamicist Winter, perhaps we should reflect on the wisdom of giving the reins of power to the mob, rather than to the voters.

    Michael: “can that be the outworking of some apple-using youthful idealists who while not exactly setting fire to themselves in the market place, are at least brave enough to pose questions to a smug society far too at ease with itself?”

    Unlikely, since they don’t even grok the hypocrisy of using those Foxconn assembled Apple products to ask their questions. The kidlets are just the latest bunch of “gimmes” — they want gov’t jobs, they want gov’t to provide free tuition, free healthcare, they want gov’t to pay the down payment on their houses, et al and ad nauseum. They want a release from responsibility.

  • Dread – what a response – I’m stunned. You seem to imply from your insightful Arab Winter insight that it would be better to leave dictators in place rather than challenge them out of power and get involved in the mess and turmoil of creating a new society – like waiting for the perfect democracy to come along to release them with no pain? Remind me again – what does that perfect democracy look like or what path would you advise the Syrian, Yemeni and Sudanese oppressed to follow from a Northern Irish perspective? I am sure they are all ears.

    In terms of the motives of our own empowered selfish generation – what would you advise them do to voice their dissatisfaction with the system they are born into? Get a degree, a job, a nice car and a mortgage, 2.4 kids, a civil service career and a few shares in a safe institution and a pension for when they are 70? I’m afraid not many of those options exist anymore.

    What are your best ideas (or indeed any suggestions at all) for creating a better society – one that works?

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Michael: “You seem to imply from your insightful Arab Winter insight that it would be better to leave dictators in place rather than challenge them out of power and get involved in the mess and turmoil of creating a new society – like waiting for the perfect democracy to come along to release them with no pain? ”

    That is a matter of perspective, Michael. By choosing the Islamicist parties — The Egyptan Brotherhood and a party further to the right of the EB, we’re all but guaranteeing war with Israel, which will create a far larger “mess” than leaving the Egyptians under military rule. Likewise, I think the Coptic Christians will come to miss military rule.

    Michael: “Remind me again – what does that perfect democracy look like or what path would you advise the Syrian, Yemeni and Sudanese oppressed to follow from a Northern Irish perspective? I am sure they are all ears. ”

    Off the cuff? The American one — messy, but built to ensure the dignity and the protection of the minority from the tyranny of the majority and with an explicit line between the state and the church / mosque.

    Michael: “In terms of the motives of our own empowered selfish generation – what would you advise them do to voice their dissatisfaction with the system they are born into?”

    Grow up, get a bath, get a good suit, get a job, buy a helmet and quit whining that life isn’t fair. “Fair” is a playground word with little real applicability in the real world. Take a good long look at the numbers and realize that we can’t afford the freebies we’ve already set up an entitlements, let alone the smorgasbord of goodies they say they want.

    Michael: “What are your best ideas (or indeed any suggestions at all) for creating a better society – one that works?”

    See above.

  • Harry Flashman

    “We kind of established that they do have a certain amount of legal authority to do this and by most commenters views, a huge amount of moral right to do this.”

    We kind of established no such thing, a handful of the usual left wing propagandists tried to establish it but they were told in no uncertain terms by others that the Occupy movement have little or no legitimacy to forcibly take over other people’s private property.

    Try to keep up.