‘This community deserves better…Our young people deserve better.’

Everyone interested in developing a better society in the north of Ireland should be watching closely to see how the PSNI- and politicians- react to the battle for control of a working class community in Bangor over the next few days, weeks and months.

The brutal attack on a local volunteer community worker, Aaron McMahon, can be viewed as a blatant attempt by loyalist paramilitaries to assert their power and authority over a working-class community which reacted adversely to paramilitary attempts to lay claim to the area over the past nine months.

This Belfast Telegraph article gives some background to the story, but a locally produced report from the summer of 2015,  CVCA_FINAL-FINAL-FINAL-___Report_Community_Engagement confirms that this local battle for hearts and minds has been building up from early Spring.

The document is worth reading as it illustrates how both the PSNI and politicians have failed to robustly act to defend the overwhelming number of residents who clearly view the erection of the loyalist flags as an act of intimidation- in an exclusively loyalist area. ‘Control’ of the local bonfire site also appears to be an issue.

Even more interesting is the results of the local poll which found that 48% of residents either wanted no flags flown at all or only flags flown from the properties of residents- a figure worth remembering when unionist politicians attempt to justify the erection of loyalist flags of any hue in mixed residential areas across Belfast and beyond.

When asked who should take the lead in resolving the local flags issue, the residents of this loyalist community were clear: some 58% identified the PSNI. One of the comments included in the response to this question was “Why are the PSNI and politicians running scared on this issue?”

The results for questions posed relating to the inclusion of tyres on the local bonfire produced similar replies, with the largest number of respondents wanting the PSNI to lead in resolving the issue.

Less than two months ago, amidst some fanfare, a Loyalist Communities Council was formed with the apparent objective to end loyalist paramilitarism. Many were rightly cynical that, some 21 years on from the paramilitary ceasefires, a new process was being launched (and likely funded) to eradicate the festering sore of paramilitarism which blights many working class communities.

The loyalists involved in the LCC initiative made great play of being interested in developing the educational prospects of working class protestant children in their communities.

It is with great irony then, to note that the principal of the local primary school saw fit to write a letter clearly written in exasperation at the impact of the paramilitary presence in the local housing estate. The letter is included in the report and has been pasted in full below:

Annex 1 – Letter from Clandeboye School Principal

Good afternoon, 17th April 2015

I am emailing to voice my concern over an issue which has arisen in the Clandeboye area over the past number of weeks.

This afternoon I stood outside a family home to show respect to the family of Adam Owens, a former pupil of Clandeboye Primary School. Hundreds of young people, some of whom were taken ill with grief and had medical attention at the scene, followed Adam’s coffin as it left his mother’s home.

As we stood watching this heart-breaking scene UDA flags blew in the wind. Why? Are these not illegal symbols? I have had parents expressing concern about these flags as this is not a true representation of who lives or contributes to life in the Clandeboye area.

As someone who is working to develop the young people in this area and who is currently helping to research and target under-achievement and lack of aspiration in the young boys of this area, it angers, frustrates and saddens me that these symbols are allowed to be flown in an area which is showing signs of positivity and improvement.

It is my understanding that since the opening of the new Clandeboye playground, property prices have increased and there has been a quick turnaround time on rentals. Pupil numbers at Clandeboye Primary School are increasing on a weekly basis with numbers going from 200 when I arrived in September 2013 to 267 in September 2015.

The Clandeboye community is a caring, collaborative people who are looking for a positive , inclusive future for their children and grandchildren. I would now ask that political representatives demonstrate their support for this and look forward to a response regarding the removal of these flags.


Julie Thomas Principal

Clandeboye Primary School

All of which leads to the obvious question.

Quite apart from the roles and responsibilities of the PSNI and politicians in upholding the law and acting to support local residents, can we now expect the newly-formed Loyalist Communities Council to prove its worth and support a local community worker- and dedicated educationalist- who clearly have the best interest of working-class people at heart?

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  • Jack Stone

    So how does that relate to the murder of Paul Quinn and this article? The issues in the investigation of Paul Quinn involve issues of border, the gardai, the problems coordinating between the Irish and UK jurisdictions and widespread issues with cross border crime. There have been over 10 arrests and the Gardai resorted to luring suspects to the Republic to question them. These issues are completely different from the issues above. How are the issues of this murder and the murder of Paul Quinn analogous? Did you really just say the IRA kill people too? the investigation of the McGuigan murder might have been a better example too. Did you choose Paul Quinn because you needed a “clean skin” victim? To answer your question the murder of Paul Quinn was off topic.

  • Pete

    But the post being accused of “whataboutery” was in response to someone else claiming bias. In which case the post was entirely relevant.

    If someone had just made a post out of the blue saying, “I’ve read your article, but what about the IRA?!?!”, then of course that would be whataboutery.

    Just read the conversation exchange above to see what I mean.

  • submariner

    Chris I have absolutely no idea why my post above was removed . But I’m getting a bit pissed off about the arbitrary censorship on this board. It seems posts are removed without any explanation of why or what whoever removed them found objectionable. Mick you really need to sort this nonsense out.

  • chrisjones2

    With Loyalist paramilitaries in general its some members of the DUP. A chat here a chat there., A wee grant for community work. A job for a community worker A grant to pay for bonfire celebrations

    Vote grubbing

  • chrisjones2

    Nor have I …I took no offence and answered honestly and robustly

    I too have felt the lash of Cap’n Micks henchmen but its his blog and we are an unruly bunch at times

  • chrisjones2

    I wasn’t accommodating my personal prejudices…just challenging yours and Croiteir’s – with others

  • chrisjones2

    No they are not…they are exactly the same with paramilitaries trying to take over areas for their own criminal purposes and to exert control. Two sides of the one coin

    Have a look too at the others listed. Also what do you mean by a ;’clean skin’ victim. Which ones do you suggest aren’t clean skins? Are you suggesting that its somehow OK to murder some people because you don’t like them or suspect they are criminals?

  • Robin Keogh

    I challenged Unionist leaders to come out against the actions of those Loyalists. Thats it. I did so on the basis that establishment Unionism has a bad habit of turning a blind eye to the nasty side of loyalism. And if the situation was reversed and SF refused to publicly condemn the actions of dissidents i would do the same.

  • Robin Keogh

    But that does not mean that the DUP are actually rubbing shoulders with the people who carried out the attck.

  • mac tire

    …or British agents like Steak Knife.

    I am sure you just forgot that.

  • mac tire

    “Perhaps as the police have fewer and fewer resources…”

    You supported these cuts.

  • Sliothar

    Jack, forget about it. Chris has already hijacked the topic away from the actions of loyalist paramilitaries to those of the IRA. Perhaps he should start a thread himself rather than troll, troll, troll and knee jerk about separate and individual issues – and, for that matter, include *everyone* who doesn’t empathise with loyalists and their paramilitary allies as being an IRA denier or sympathiser.

  • Gingray

    That’s feeble – your principle of equal enforcement fails in northern Ireland – should the provos or dissidents commit havoc they are rightly condemned by Unionists and nationalists. Should loyalists and do the same, it’s usually silence. Search BBC for punishment shooting, drugs and group name.

    NYC was more down to compstat, yes to fix local issues but very new York specific. We should learn to use data more, but it doesn’t mean elected reps should ignore the uda

  • Hugh Davison

    So, what is being done, then?

  • Hugh Davison

    Good post

  • Jack Stone

    Well lets look at it shall we, why not use McGuigan? Instead of taking me out of context, why not look at it in reference to what we were talking about? Why not say and the murder of Kevin McGuigan was …

    I mean it is much more similar. He was killed in the Short Strand district of east Belfast which is dominated by paramilitaries. It took place in Northern Ireland and it was a clear issue for the Police Service of Northern Ireland. It involved a vigilante group with a history of community of intimidation. McGuigan was the victim of a punishment shooting in the past. He had been subjected to paramilitary threats for months.

    Kevin McGuigan was also an IRA veteran, convicted in 1986 for the attempted murder of a Territorial Army soldier and served time in the H-Blocks. He was heavily linked to the murder of Brendan “Speedy” Fegan in May 1999. McGuigan was far from innocent. He lacked a “clean skin”.

    So, why choose Paul Quinn over Kevin McGuigan, Robert McCartney, Eamon Collins or Nicky O’Hare? Their murders had much more in common with the one above than Paul’s. Could it be because the murder of Paul Quinn plays better than the murders of those men even if it has significantly less in common and the issues involved in potential prosecution are quite different?

  • Croiteir

    I did – are you referring to the bit about NYC?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I did read the entire exchange above and its still “whataboutery” without question in my book, Pete! If Chris actually wished to answer Croitier’s claim about police having no interest in Loyalist paramilitaries, the sensible way was to find and post instances of stringent police action against militant Loyalism, preferably in Bangor itself, not the knee jerk of simply saying “Themuns in the Army Council can do what they like” or “Yer lot supports the them baduns in the RA”, which does not address the point and is a straightforward exercise in balancing the books. Chris, whom I at times vote up for sterling posts when he does not simply default to this kind of thing literally “had just made a post out of the blue saying, “I’ve read your article, but what about the IRA?!?!” ” Not that I’d ever value his customary robust humour any the less for that when he actually uses it.

    Actually saying that it’s not whataboutery is a rather convoluted version of “Whataboutery Lite” itself! The point you should have been making would perhaps have been more correct if you’d changed a single letter and said that “People just Try “whataboutery” If they disagree on this website…” sadly all too true. And it needs calling if we are ever to discuss important things intelligently instead of slyly trying to simply score irrelevant points in our own heads.

    My “A” Level history master in the late 1960s, a Bandon Protestant, had a good explanation of this tendency to shift ground without addressing the real issue. “Stick to the point and don’t deviate from it. When you are asked in the exam about the League of Augsburg do not begin the essay with ‘My Aunt Sally has a place near Ballycastle….’ ”

    The “My Aunt Sally” rule is not a bad rule when commenting on Slugger, even if I’m reluctant to rigidly stick to the point myself at times.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Chris, I was posting when there were much fewer comments on the thread and Pete was obviously defending this particular comment:


    I’d posted my comment 20 hours ago (as I write) and the comments you are throwing at me above were posted four hours later. My crystal ball was a tad clouded yesterday, so I didn’t actually see them while I was posting. Now, I post about the actual comment I was responding to in more depth below in answer to Pete’s castigating me on calling it “whataboutery”, but, as that Boy Upstairs is my witness, I simply cannot see this particular reply to Croitier as anything but the “W” word, almost classically stated. Of course you hit out at all of them elsewhere, but not in this actual comment.

    I utterly agree with your gloss above, (they are all to blame, and we all need to grow out of this kind of playground politics with deadly violence thrown in) but that is simply not what the original comment said when it brought the tired old see-saw out again. As I said below, there are genuine ways to answer what Croitier said that actually would carry weight and not involve simply throwing in a counterweight. But I DO understand that they would require some careful research………

    So now all I have to do is take my own advice and stick strictly to the point of a thread myself…….

  • Reader

    It is SF who are quite clear that they choose departmental cuts over welfare cuts. And – hint – the PSNI aren’t part of the welfare budget.

  • Reader

    It takes 24 hours for Chris to get a news story into Slugger. Give him a chance…

  • mickfealty

    Well, there’s a bit more to it than broken windows, but yes that bit. If cannot do the small stuff you cannot hope do the bigger stuff. The police get corralled in the barracks through a culture of inaction.

  • chrisjones2

    Of course not. Just like when you speak to SF reps you are not talking to people who associate with the IRA

  • chrisjones2

    There you go again with the clean skin tag. I dont care how dirty the skin. If they are guilty they should be prosecuted not murdered

  • chrisjones2

    I haven’t hijacked it. Several posters alleged that the police were effectively complicity in the attack by either working with the loyalist, being afraid of them of being lazy. I challenged that and pointed out that this scummy behaviour applies on both sides. They – and you – lost the argument so now you accuse me of hijacking the argument

  • Robin Keogh

    Exactly … at last ! Well done 😉

  • Croiteir

    I would not consider this a big issue unless they want to big it up. Let us face it the police can hunt down republicans with zeal, why not loyalists. The deference they are shown is ridiculous. This needs addressed. I listened an interview f the victim and he specifically mentioned that the police inaction. You cannot hide behind the rather small figleaf that this is a big item. It is not.

  • mickfealty

    Really? I would love to see the proof of that somewhere. I’m not saying that you are wrong, but LA and a very large chunk of the US is still in basket case territory re crime (according to some) because broken windows is less practicable. I don’t doubt the value of contributory factors in the least, but I have serious doubts that in themselves they factor as a disproof, as such.

    As a quasi Californian I am sure you have some strong views on this?

  • barnshee

    An irony bypass

  • Jack Stone

    The Terrorism Act 2000 states “A person in a public place commits an offence if he (a) wears an item of clothing, or (b) wears, carries or displays an article, in such a way or in such circumstances as to arouse reasonable suspicion that he is a member or supporter of a proscribed organisation.” The Ulster Defence Association has been a proscribed terrorist group since August 1992 and thus flying their flags is illegal.

  • Jack Stone

    If you have another reason then say it. Answer the question. Why choose Paul Quinn over Kevin McGuigan or another victim in Northern Ireland of a more similar case (like the ones I mentioned above)? If not, then the more obvious reason stands and displays the weakness of your argument.

  • barnshee

    Ill get really worried when these thugs start murdering people like policeman census workers and postmen.

    Until then the AFM police will handle these and similar actions -from whatever side,– with kid gloves.-selective arrests and the odd conviction.

    Confrontation will eventually produce a one or more deaths and elevation to martyr status of the protagonists.

  • Kevin Breslin

    A little from Column A, a little from Column B.

  • barnshee

    Ah define a public. Place see the problem?

  • Jack Stone

    Not really, being in a public place is quite well defined in British Law. Section 91 of the Criminal Justice Act 1967 defines a public place as ‘ In this section “public place” includes any highway and any other premises or place to which at the material time the public have or are permitted to have access, whether on payment or otherwise’ So places like the play park, the arterial routes and public buildings such as the Old Ebenezer Gospel Hall would certainly fit.

  • submariner

    You beat me to it Jack.

  • Jack Stone

    Right, the problem isn’t the law but rather the application of laws on the books by the Police Service of Northern Ireland. The PSNI may have valid reasons for their use of police discretion but I wish they would engage the public on such issues.