News Letter accuses Sinn Fein of trying to pull an ATN on them…

Here’s a funny one (in both senses of the word).  Aldous Huxley wrote back in 1958 that…

…the early advocates of uni­versal literacy and a free press envisaged only two possibilities: the propaganda might be true, or it might be false. They did not foresee what in fact has happened, above all in our Western capitalist democra­cies — the development of a vast mass communications industry, concerned in the main neither with the true nor the false, but with the unreal, the more or less totally irrelevant.

In a word, they failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.” [Emphasis added]

So here’s today’s distraction (Northern Irish politics is full of them).It seems that the West Belfast MP is going to report the Belfast News Letter to the Press Council for an editorial which described west Belfast as “lavishly taxpayer-funded” through the benefits system.

In a presser (not available online) Paul Maskey Sinn Fein MP for West Belfast said…

The editorial comment in today’s News letter is insulting in its use of outdated and negative bias. Editorials in newspapers should not be used as a platform to denigrate and stereotype entire communities.”

He said it was the News Letter’s prerogative to support “Tory-driven” welfare cuts but slammed the editorial as “insulting and patronising”.

Good luck with that Paul. In the meantime, the News Letter struck back…

Figures compiled by non-political Assembly research staff — which were published last year — show that of all 18 Northern Ireland constituencies West Belfast has the highest percentage of the adult population claiming at least one benefit, with more than half (50.7 per cent) of those over 16 claiming at least one benefit. The Northern Ireland average is 39.8 per cent.

The report also shows that West Belfast has more people claiming disability benefits and more people claiming unemployment benefits than any other part of the Province.

News Letter editor Rankin Armstrong said: “We stand over the editorial. The figures speak for themselves. Many realise that helping people to get off benefits and into work is not only in the interests of taxpayers, but is also better for those who have in some cases been abandoned to a life of dependency on the state.”

And the kicker…

Six years ago, Mr Maskey’s predecessor as MP for West Belfast, Gerry Adams, reacted angrily when the Andersonstown News printed a column by its editor, who wrote a column under the name ‘Squinter’, in which he accused Mr Adams of having failed the area. The following week, the paper carried a front page apology to Mr Adams for the “hurt” caused.

Hmmm…  Or as Huxley also noted back in the 50s…

In their propaganda today’s dictators rely for the most part on repetition, suppression and rationaliza­tion — the repetition of catchwords which they wish to be accepted as true, the suppression of facts which they wish to be ignored, the arousal and rationaliza­tion of passions which may be used in the interests of the Party or the State.

As the art and science of manip­ulation come to be better understood, the dictators of the future will doubtless learn to combine these tech­niques with the non-stop distractions which, in the West, are now threatening to drown in a sea of irrele­vance the rational propaganda essential to the mainten­ance of individual liberty and the survival of demo­cratic institutions.

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  • Michael Henry

    ” The Newsletter prerogative to support Tory driven welfare Cuts “- and the Newsletter are not the only Journalists / Reporters to do so-

    Today the Tory’s announced that they would spent 3.5 billion of our tax money on military contracts for 589 new Scout Vehicles for the beaten British army –

    The defence Secretary Michael Fallon said -” US Taxpayers won’t go on picking up the Cheque if we choose to Prioritise social welfare spending when the threats are on our doorstep “-

    What threats- how is 598 new scout cars going to help-but we have it out of the Tory’s own mouth- they want to cut welfare to spend on stupid military toys-and the Unionists support them- wonder what the Newsletter will say about this-

  • Dec

    The actual editorial referred to ‘lavishly-funded Republican strongholds’ and simply provided West Belfast as an example of such. Taigs being averse to work and all that. But now it seems they meant just West Belfast.

  • mickfealty
  • chrisjones2

    And worth it, nay essential, to defend Her Majesty’s Realm

  • chrisjones2

    “lavishly taxpayer-funded republican strongholds such as west Belfast ”

    ….which includes the Shankill where the problem among lavishly funded DLA gobbling ‘community workers’ and their cohorts abound.

    This isnt a sectarian issue …its universal

  • mickfealty

    That’s the thing Mickey, he is spending right now (that C4 on the Royal Marines is in part a recruiting tool) but he’s been cutting the tripe of Defence spending for four years previously.

    Anyhoo, back on topic…

  • Tacapall

    Obviously the unionist News Letter is joining in on the graduated unionist response by jumping on the “send welfare back to London” bandwagon. These backwoods people still think they rule the roost and can jump in and out of an agreement whenever they wish, Brian Feeney sums it up well in the Irish News today “Unionists need to realise they are going nowhere without the agreement and support of nationalism and that includes sending welfare powers back to Westminster. You would wonder why West Belfast hold the highest number of recipients of DLA and Welfare payments rather than point fingers such bigots would maybe want to look at the most deprived area statistics years after year and maybe ask the Doctors and Psychiatrists who deal with those issues what the problem is rather than measuring a population from their own ivory towers.

  • Michael Henry

    Instead of looking for more powers for the Assembly the NewsLetter is supporting Lord Trimble -the soon to be Lord Robinson and the never to be Lord Allister in looking to remove powers ( Social Security )-wee boys minds looking for smaller roles-

  • chrisjones2

    SF have no chance of that easy a rescue….nor do the DUPS

    The Brits will hold all the parties feet to the fire on this. They wanted an Assembly – they have to govern and that means hard choices. The British funded pork barrel is down to the scrapings but there is lots of fat to cut on all the porkers out there. So its up to the assembly to choose which porkers are for the hog roast this autumn – all those vanity projects and political bungs

  • sean treacy

    What,s new ? A North Down tory starts his thousandth anti SF,anti West Belfast thread!

  • mickfealty

    Ah Sean, always with the trolling. Let’s try that more time, with some attempt to connect with the ball?

  • Katie-o

    “Good luck with that one Paul”..

    Agreed Mick..

    “A couple of years ago one weekly newspaper published a piece highly critical of Gerry Adams’s tenure as MP. It asked, not unreasonably what has been achieved after 30 years, and come to the conclusion not a lot.

    West Belfast today as in 1981 still has the most people on benefits, the highest crime rates and the poorest housing quality in the north.”

    …”after each census the Northern Ireland Statistical Research Agency (NISRA) set to work on the figures and after a couple of years churned out the spreadsheets showing west Belfast as poorly off as ever it was.”

    Brian Feeney in his column ‘Where is west Belfasts share of Sinn Fein success ” from 2011…

  • mickfealty


    It’s a unionist paper. What on earth do you expect it to do? Hold its wheest? Feeney sums a lot of things up very well… See Kate’s note below for a more relevant comment from the great man?

  • Jag

    I think on this SF will carry through with their threat and complain to the press ombudsman. It’s free and low-risk, unlike GA’s threat of defamation action against INM six months ago which never materialised, and which was met by a robust response from INM in its papers.

    Press complaints are a pain for newspapers to deal with, though, and most newspapers will regard such complaints as marking their cards, and they will be more guarded in their comments in future. They just don’t have the resource to deal with an avalanche of complaints.

  • Tacapall

    I expect nothing less from the News Letter Mick; like most nationalists I would imagine. Im just saying this particular article manages to stigmitise the people of West Belfast and label all those Doctors and Psychiatrists who’s diagnosis resulted in all those DLA awards as either incompetent or easily fooled and their patients academy award winning actors who are lazy and parasitic. Is our psychiatric units at bursting point because all those beds are held by lazy idle job dodgers and all those people, the majority from nationalist areas, who committed suicide or attempted suicide doing that because they just want on the DLA. The people of the rest of Britain never experienced what some people in this part of Ireland experienced if they had im sure the likes of the News Letter would be more understanding of their suffering and calling for more money to be made available to tackle the problems.

    “but it is not unreasonable to be asking what’s been done in return for such diligent loyality”

    Could I suggest the lack of investment in West Belfast is because of a long standing grudge by successive British governments against the majority Irish community for not being the loyal British subjects they want them to be rather than the tired old mantra of “its Sinn Fein’s fault because they dont take their seats at Westminster” line.

  • mickfealty

    Westminster pulled out of that responsibility in 2007. Now, you might say there’s been a recession since then, but I’m not seeing what’s been done at Stormont (beyond New Casement and a few capital projects through the social investment fund) to reverse the trend. Read the Feeney and Squinter pieces e if you don’t like the tone of the News Letter?

  • Mister_Joe

    Excuse my ignorance, but what is an ATN? Google acronyms is no help.

  • Tacapall

    What you say might be true Mick but it doesn’t address the issue of if the people of West Belfast are just lazy and parasitic why do all those Docs and shrinks put their medical careers on the line just to suck the financial life out of the welfare system. Could it possibly be that they are considered by these medical professionals as actually being unfit for work and that the medication they are on would make them a health and safety risk not only to themselves but to others therefore unfit for work.

  • Tacapall

    Andersonstown News Joe.

  • Morpheus

    The fact that the DUP have to be bribed into tackling long term social deprivation and treating all NI citizens the same, in 2014 no less, answers the question.

  • Mister_Joe

    Thanks, Tacapall.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    It’s interesting that there is a complete lack of Unionist bloggers, when stories such as this or sectarian chants at Fleaghs are published we are awash with contributors deflecting the story back to Unionists.
    If it was a negative Unionist story printed contributors on here would be saying how awful Unionists are and what a wonderfully well articulated blog this was.
    I put it to the contributors on here that we’re all as bad as each other.

  • Neil

    There are many reasons why West Belfast is an economic wasteland. It does take the biscuit somewhat that after the DUP fought tooth and nail to prevent investment in deprived areas being allocated by need, a Unionist paper decides to point and laught at how badly we’ve done.

    Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster revealed in the Assembly that out of £107.82million in financial assistance provided by Invest NI in the last financial year, just £360,000 went to West Belfast – the lowest of any parliamentary constituency in the North. East Belfast came top of the table with £28.09m in assistance followed by South Belfast with £15.7million
    You’ll not see much in the way of comment around the fact that the DUP are as succesful as the British were in preventing the population of West Belfast getting any investment. One would think that’s quite a story really. Less than .5% for WB, nearly 30% in the East. Unionist minister allocates 60 times the money to Unionist area shocker. Not much opportunity to knife SF there so move along.
    Now no one can dispute that 5 in 10 is more than 4 in 10, but it’s worth bearing in mind that the number of people in loyalist areas who will be impacted by welfare reform is around 80% of the people that will suffer in West Belfast. So the loyalist Facebook crowd who as usual will use any excuse to talk about sponging taigs, and who almost universally attended the school of hard knocks and work as full time mummy will also find themselves on the bread line. They’re just not smart enough to realise that the only thing standing between them and a food bank is a Shinner. It would be interesting to see how long the moral grandstanding amoungst Unionism and the Newsletter melt away if these reforms were imposed and cancer patients die of starvation in East Belfast.

  • Comrade Stalin

    It’s not entirely low risk given the likelihood that the PCC will reply simply saying “stop being so silly, it’s a free press”.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Indeed but it was interesting how the News Letter editorial lumped the Shankill in with the rest of the workshy fenians.

  • mickfealty

    Ahem, like me ask the ‘foolish’ question: how so?

  • Jag

    Ah, but the PCC wouldn’t use such language, they’d be more prosaic. But even if any SF complaint isn’t upheld (and on this one, I think the SFers are being far too precious and deserve a response along the lines you suggest), the complaint will occupy management time at Donegall Square, the NL will probably engage a solicitor to help draft its response, and of course there is the outside chance the PCC will uphold the complaint. It will have a chilling effect on NL coverage of economic and social conditions in SF strongholds in future.

  • Alan N/Ards

    There are also unionists who live in West Belfast. How do they feel about this?

    The country needs to tighten its belt. We need to cut down on unnecessary spending. It needs to be seriously looked at. Things like free prescriptions should only be for the less well off. The same for pensioners bus passes. We can’t afford three school systems. It can be done without hurting the poorest in our society. Unfortunately the stalemate at Stormont is not helping anyone.

  • barnshee

    I hate to keep reminding you —the piper calls the tune -he has already paid very generously for “your tune” If he chooses to spend some elsewhere- well he is the piper . You could (as I have advised you before) pay for you own tune.?

  • A Morris

    I’m from west Belfast and very proud of it. I have seven siblings they all work, their partners all work and our older children either work or are in further education. I found the Newsletter editorial offensive, because it implied all us westies are dole scrounging, work shy, fraudsters.

    It fails to address the real issue with dependency on welfare, areas that experienced high levels of trauma naturally have higher rates of mental illness. There is also a lack of opportunity and of the jobs that have been created – mainly supermarkets and fast food outlets – few pay what could be considered a living wage that would sustain a family. Also among those welfare claimant figures are working parents claiming tax credits to supplement a low wage.

    The Newsletter totally dismissed the Lower Shankill which is part of west Belfast and also has high levels of unemployment and deprivation.

    That said the editorial should not be removed and is not a PCC matter, I’d be very surprised if they upheld the complaint but still the newspaper has to respond to it and that in itself is a time consuming process.

    And as pointed out in that now infamous Squinter article Sinn Fein have almost exclusively represented west Belfast for 30 years and cannot wash their hands of the area’s social and economic problems.

    If the number of claimants are to be reduced they need real jobs and investment that pay a living wage, not zero hour contracts and Thatcher inspired government training schemes designed to massage the unemployment figures,

  • babyface finlayson

    Are they putting their careers on the line?
    How many have been struck off for misdiagnosing someone thus enabling them to qualify for a benefit?

  • Alan N/Ards

    Spot on post. Totally agree with you.

  • Reader

    “lack of opportunity” – there seems to have been a lot of opportunity for your family – what was stopping your neighbours from getting a slice?

  • Old Mortality

    “…why do all those Docs and shrinks put their medical careers on the line just to suck the financial life out of the welfare system.”

    They don’t because they’re not declaring that their patient has only one arm when he clearly has two. But if he says he’s got ‘bad nerves’, it’s difficult to prove he hasn’t, so they’ve got nothing to lose and avoid a disgruntled patient. Over 40% of DLA claims in NI are for mental disorders. I’m sure it’s not much different in West Belfast. The beauty of this is that you can be seen running to the top of Divis Mountain without fear of the consequences.

  • Tacapall

    Obviously you’ve forgotten Irish people were not asked to join the union and we’ve been asking the British in one form or another where to sling their hook for almost a thousand years you’d think they’d take the hint but in the scheme of things having a presence in Ireland is more important to London than they would like us to believe.

  • chrisjones2

    “the lack of investment in West Belfast is because of a long standing grudge by successive British governments against the majority Irish community ”

    Sorry but that’s just mopery They poured in millions – just look at De Lorean – and most of it was wasted. The issue is that for a faction – and it is a fraction – of those with low attainment and low expectations weedling a life on the dole is the career choice. But that fraction is enough to drag down the figures for a whole community

  • chrisjones2

    Why do you seem to assume that deprivation is a predominantly Catholic issue? Look at the education data for your protestants vs Catholics. It suits our politicians to cast it as a sectarian issue

  • mickfealty

    I’ve heard good journos at the Beeb complain their senior managers should take on more fights. Duck every fight or just too many you shouldn’t and life becomes insufferable.

    I’m sure it will be a pain, but: the grounds are verging on comical; and it’s not going to do the News Letter any harm.

    Look at the publicity and kudos the IN got by taking the Goodfellah’s ruling to appeal?

  • Morpheus

    I don’t – I agree with you that poverty doesn’t give a toss what religion a person is but the fact of the matter is that in Northern Ireland, through decades of mismanagement, 16 of the 20 most socially deprived wards are Catholic and the DUP should not need to be bribed into tackling the issue as suggested above.

  • Tacapall

    Your claiming Dunmurry was part of West Belfast at the time of De Lorean ? Strangely enough I used to work there and it was part of Lisburn then but then again a lack of historical knowledge from a unionist is not unusual. I see you’ve found a new word though “mopery” isn’t that what all those OO members and DUPers etc engage in when they cant coat trail through nationalist areas 🙂

  • Zeno1

    ” just £360,000 went to West Belfast – the lowest of any parliamentary constituency in the North”

    I think that proves the point rather than contradicts it. West Belfast is controlled by Sinn Fein and they are not fighting for or winning investment for their area. That begs the question, what are they doing to deserve the loyalty of their voters?

  • Old Mortality

    If your family can do it why not others and why were you or your seven siblings not ‘traumatised’ by the Troubles?
    The News Letter didn’t say that all residents of West Belfast were state dependent but merely cited figures showing that a slight majority (50.7%) were and if it included Tax Credit recipients, I’m sure it would be much higher unless a very significant proportion of the employed population in West Belfast are high earners.
    What is a living wage in West Belfast? Is it the same for a single person as for someone with eight children?

  • Old Mortality

    Which constituency contains Belfast city centre. It would account for a substantial share of the grants and Belfast isn’t a very big place. How difficult is it to travel from west to south to east?

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    (if I understand your gripe correctly, please advise if I have the wrong end of the stick, thankyou).

    That appears to be a common complaint “why are they only mentioning unionists?”

    I recall it being a favourite of elderly locals, a criticism of unionist behaviour might come on the radio and immediately there’d be a chorus of “you never hear him sayin a bad word about SF!”

    “That’s right! Never a bad word spoke!”

    And that’s it.
    End of discussion. Nothing at all about what the topic at hand. It slips through the net. Loyalists urinating against a chapel is therefore a non-topic because there was not a preliminary criticism of SF for that day.

    Is that really a constructive way of thinking?
    Now, I can’t speak for other unionist critics of unionism, but, perhaps their views aren’t so different from mine in this respect:

    The Fleadh – As agitating and upsetting as it may be, really, what did we think was going to happen, I would have found it more news worthy if it DIDN’T happen.

    I’m an outsider as far as republican Ardoyne is concerned and as such I don’t really care what they get up to. An anonymous unionist ex-pat complaining about republicany bigoty shenanigans in a republican area is hardly going to ruffle any feathers.

    If it makes them look like intransigent d*cks then that’s their beeswax.
    I DO care when unionism does something that makes it look intolerant or intransigent.

    I thought Bunting was (from her local representative perspective) right to complain about the Fleadh.

    Then almost in the same sentence she flattens her moral high-ground by calling for support for a memorial parade of a dead terrorist.

    There is no consistency there.

    Nothing honourable.
    Poor leadership.
    It’s an embarrassment.

    If republicans wish to make themselves look pathetic or bitter by supporting the words of the Druids or bitching about the number of wee union flags on poultry in Sainsbury’s then fine.

    So be it.

    When unionism does something stupid I feel partly obliged to comment (for all it’s worth).
    When republicanism or nationalism does, I only sometimes feel obliged, as I care little for nationalism.

    Unionists have to stop imagining that that there’s some sort of quota for criticism.

    For example, IF there was a web page that did a one-for-one criticism of loyalist and republican idiocy would people then start to acknowledge that the highlighted acts might actually be intolerable after all or will they find some other excuse to defend bands playing loudly outside of chapels?

    So, there you have it. That’s why this particular unionist gets the boot in when he’s given the chance.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    “”mopery” isn’t that what all those OO members and DUPers etc engage in when they cant coat trail through nationalist areas”

    Yes, this is indeed an example of MOPEry occasionally referred to as ‘Orange MOPEry’, an offshoot (or ‘splinter wing’ to stick with NI’s fashion) of the longer established MOPEry much embraced by people such as Gerry Adams, Tim Pat-Coogan or anyone who would rather not rationalise a situation and by default adopt the stance that the scandal in question is a clear and deliberate attempt at oppression by the London government.

    Orange MOPEry is a particularly baffling version of MOPEry as the offender tries to portray him/herself simultaneously as the victim.
    Without any sense of embarrassment.

    More recently we have seen the rise of ‘middle MOPEry’ which involves trying to evoke sympathy for the middle ground types who feel it unfair that all labels and insults can be directed at them without the faintest sense of irony, hence someone like yours truly (occasionally guilty of middle-MOPEry) can be called an British-imperialist-anti-Catholic-Provo-loving-Lundy (or words to that effect).

    If there’s one thing the Polish people who are being put of their homes in NI at the moment can take back to Poland with them it is a finely tuned sense of historical perspective so that they can finally wise up and realise that they haven’t had it that bad down through the centuries:

    “Piotr! I thought the Germans, Prussians and Russians were bad to us, until I saw the sufferings in Twaddell and the chickens with little union jacks on the packaging in Sainsburys! Such suffering!!!”

  • Zeno1

    Are we to assume that if Sinn Fein were in complete control in government that the press would not be allowed to write “stuff” like this?

  • Neil

    Which constituency contains Belfast city centre.

    Not East Belfast anyway. If it did (and it doesn’t) it wouldn’t go anywhere towards explaining the derisory amount of money spent on creating jobs there. You can attempt to rationalise it as you please, but it’s pretty well accepted that investing in jobs in an area tends to bring down unemployment in that area.

    How difficult is it to travel from west to south to east?

    I’ll assume you’re implying that it’s quite easy to apply for a job anywhere in Belfast. I’ll also assume you haven’t much recent experience of surviving on around 50 quid a week. In that situation the transport costs are not as insignificant as you might think. Especially if you’re already having problems getting enough in the way of food and paying your energy bills. And all efforts for a job you may not get, you’ll hopefully agree that it’s easier to roll the dice when the job’s on your doorstep.

  • Neil

    That rather depends what the point is. I think you’re cynical enough to believe, much like myself, that the Shinners and the DUP like to do the horse trading behind closed doors and both parties prioritise the same sort of things. So while SF’s focus on (failed) issues like the Maze over say jobs in WB is noteworthy, the fact that such a small fraction of investment made it over the sectarian line is also noteworthy.
    I tend to think that the person doing the action deserves the credit or the blame. So the “SF didn’t stop me” defence isn’t the most sound for explaining off investing sixty times the cash in EB over WB.

  • Zeno1

    So the “SF didn’t stop me” defence isn’t the most sound for explaining off investing sixty times the cash in EB over WB.

    SF have much the same amount of power in government as the DUP have. They can stop any project by veto. So when mountains of money is being spent elsewhere it would be relatively simple for them to insist on the same level of spending for the people of WB and the others areas they represent. The fact that they didn’t is a failure.
    So why did they allow almost all investment money to bypass their own people? Do they not want them to have jobs?

    However I’m not blaming them in isolation. The DUP share the blame, but the DUP are not the elected representatives of WB.

  • Neil

    They can stop any project by veto.
    Much as the shinners get to carry the can for what happens in education, the DUP get to carry the can for their departments. SF do not a veto over INI when it comes to awarding funding. They cannot bounce a DUP person out of their department any more than the DUP can bounce a Shinner out of theirs. The shinners can be held responsible for agriculture, culture and education while the DUP are responsible for health, DSD etc.
    I’m not too far away from you on this anyway. They both deserve some responsibility.

  • A Morris

    Obviously not and if working mothers are to be encouraged out to work they need to earn a wage that will feed and cloth their family. The Conservative Party campaign to attack the poor and vulnerable aided by programmes such as Benefit Street seems to have been really successful in that there are now sections of the community happy to blame all economic ills on welfare claimants. People on benefits were neither responsible for the crash of the economy nor will penalising them stabilise the economy. Turning welfare into a sectarian point scorer when poverty does not recognise religion is bizarre even for this backwater.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    But this isn’t about Unionism, it’s about tackling a known issue in West Belfast to which Sinn Fein are calling for broadcasting censorship as a result.

  • barnshee

    “I have seven siblings they all work, their partners all work and our older children either work or are in further education”

    I can only congratulate your parents (9 children!) who must have had a huge family income to raise all those children so successfully Can`t understand why all the other “westies” did not do it.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Noted Joe, please disregard comment.

  • nilehenri

    are you even on the same planet as the rest of us? de lorean was a scam.

  • nilehenri

    this post, and the great majority of these answers only serve to back up one unassailable assertion, and sinn féin’s raison d’être: nornirn just doesn’t work.