Colm, Gerry and a wee bit of Billy


 I’m sitting listening to Billy Hutchinson saying that he doesn’t know who put the Union flags up in South Belfast and that anyway, the people who did so didn’t cause any breach of the peace, it was the people who reacted to this flag erection who caused or might cause a breach of the peace. 

I have some sympathy with you, Billy. It sometimes does seem ridiculous that a piece of cloth can be the proverbial red rag to a bull. What we need is a society where the motto is “Put Out More Flags”. Where the flying of flags adds colour and gaiety to what otherwise might be a grey street or a grim building. And I’m looking forward to the Irish flag being flown on 18 designated days from Belfast City Hall, from the flagpole at Stormont and on the buildings used by the eleven new super-councils. As you say, Billy, it’s not the people who put up the flag who are in breach of the peace. It’s the reaction of others to it.

All of which distracts me from my main topic this morning, which is (yes again, Virginia) the treatment of Gerry Adams by the southern media. Before the recent elections the south’s media were full of concern for the leadership of Sinn Féin, that Gerry Adams was a past-his-sell-by-date on the party’s progress in the south, and until someone like Mary Lou McDonald took over, the Shinners’ progress would be limited. Then we had the elections and Sinn Féin under Adams’s leadership shot from being a small player in the south’s politics to being a main player – in fact the largest political party in Ireland and, according to post-election polls, the party most trusted with economic matters. Eeek. Something needed to be done. Step forward, Colm Keena, Irish Times columnist.

Because Colm has written a book and in the course of flogging it, he has done a column in Wednesday’s Irish Times headed ‘Questions about Gerry Adams’s motivation remain’.  In it, he blames the change of the peaceful demonstrations by the civil rights movement into the campaign of violence by the IRA on… well, on Gerry Adams. As a republican, he was always wedded to violence and he and his like infected the civil rights movement. By way of proof a short story written by Adams is cited, a story about an IRA volunteer and a hedgehog (you heard me, Virgiinia) which Colm says is “enormously sentimental”. “Maybe in real life he [Adams]  lay in bed at night in Belfast safe houses while around him in the city people mourned their maimed and dead and young British soldiers patrolled the streets, and he thought the whole scenario romantic”

Well maybe indeed, Colm. Or maybe the batoning of civil rights marchers off the streets had something to do with it. Or maybe Gerry Adams took his life in his hands along with others like Martin McGuinness and did the thing that so many southern politicians and media hacks had been calling on the IRA to do: abandoned political violence and sought an electoral mandate.  John Hume took political risks for peace, Gerry Adams took life-and-death risks for peace.

But all of that’s not good enough for Colm. He figures Gerry still hankers after a united Ireland ( the cheek of him!) and so “his stated allegiance to democratic politics is subservient to this dream”. Next we know, Colm says, Adams will be trying to justify the IRA’s campaign of the 1970s and 1980s. “People who voted Sinn Féin need to pay serious heed to these dangers”.

Begod, Colm, you were a terrible loss to the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, do you know that? Cardinal Cahal Daly himself couldn’t have put it better. The public  have been warned.

22 Responses to Colm, Gerry and a wee bit of Billy

  1. Cal June 13, 2014 at 9:57 am #

    I think it may have been touched on in one of you’re blogs already, Jude. The influence of the printed press on Irish politics, like that of the Church, no longer sways opinion.

    Sound policies, articulate candidates and good organisation will see SF continue to grow in the south, regardless of articles printed in the IT or anywhere else.

    Sometimes I get the feeling some journalists in the south take themselves too seriously when it comes to politics. They seem to think they’re influential. That may have been the case, not anymore. Post Celtic Tiger – very few of them have credibility.

  2. neill June 13, 2014 at 10:15 am #

    Gerry Adams took life-and-death risks for peace.

    Really he got a paramilitary group to stop killing people and for that we should be in his thrall?

  3. Paul June 13, 2014 at 10:18 am #

    To be fair to Billy H, the flegging fiesta on the upper Ormeau is probably the work of the local UDA so he obviously definitely wouldn’t have a clue who put them up. Maybe he thinks it was the Salvation Army. It used to be just one flag in each lamppost. Now each one has 3 massive flags, British, Scottish and Norn Ironish. And they are there most of the year. Obviously there’s an inverse ratio at work – the less loyalists in any given area, the more flegs flown. Is an attempt by a mob from a minority to dominate an antipathetic community through mob handed flegging a breach of the peace? No, nothing to see here. Now move along or else

  4. Am Ghobsmacht June 13, 2014 at 11:00 am #

    The fleggy dependency of unionist culture is alarming and cringe worthy.

    If we look at Protestant AND unionist culture (not always the same thing) we’ve seen it move from Gaelic, shinty, folk music etc to bands and flegs.

    There’s not much to hold on to, so it’s becoming a case of ‘from my cold dead hands’.

    To see a rich culture shrivel in such a fashion is truly galling.

    Now Dr C, you talk about the ‘revisionism’ of Irish history.

    I wasn’t around back in the late 60’s so I can’t comment with authority.

    But it seems to me that one of the main crimes that Adams could be accused of was merging nationalism, republicanism and Catholic defence.

    Catholic defence – The Catholics of Belfast (as far as I can tell) were pretty much a hostage to keep the rest of ‘them’ in check.
    So, when they defended themselves, well, who can blame them?

    Republicanism – a noble enough notion arguably founded by Irish Presbyterians.

    Nationalism – a biased and sometimes contrived view of Irish history and culture with lashings of Catholicism

    Now, the first two, in their own right weren’t so much catalysts for demarcation (though 50 years of unionist/Protestant misrule had almost cemented division).

    But, throw in the last element; nationalism (with a catholic twist) and you have a recipe for sectarian disaster.
    There is simply no way any significant number of Protestants could sympathise with such a political and cultural cocktail and it pretty much cemented the ‘themuns vs ursuns’ mentality.

    I think of Gerry Adams as a strategic visionary, someone who would rival his fellow Ulstermen (Montgomery, Auchinleck, Brooke etc) in long term thinking.
    BUT he made a catastrophic f**k-up by mixing these three elements.

    It might have seemed like a good idea at the time, or the path of least resistance or a means to an end, but, ultimately it was a bad idea and I consider it revisionism to blindly follow the old ‘they were rebels fighting for their freedom’ bull.

    He was only young and in a boiler room of pressure.

    But the results remain the same.

    We’re still part of the UK.

    The civil rights movement brought about a tremendous amount of change in a relatively short space of time, the Provos ‘put on hold’ all other changes that eventually came through.

    In the same way that Paisley, Brookeborough and Craig were all responsible for the Provos, the Provos (inc Adams) are responsible for people like Willie Frazer, Jamie Bryson. Jonnie Adair and all the ‘fleggy’ attitudes that nationalists so lament/deplore.

    I read all these NI blogs and read about how things are the fault of other people, but all I see are a whole group of people with everyone to blame (inc myself, I’m sure I made things worse as a youngster with all my dogmatic bile)

    I might be a naive neo-O’Neillite (with the matching contempt for Paisley) but I think that Adams & Co hampered progress, they did not further it.

    Now, have at you!!!!

    • morpheus June 13, 2014 at 1:48 pm #


      Interesting post as always but when you say “I think that Adams & Co hampered progress” do you think that there would have been progress if people had not stood up and said that enough was enough and demanded equality?

      What makes you think that if ‘Adams and Co’ had not existed we would not still be sitting in a NI rife with, to use your words, “unionist/Protestant misrule”? Judging by the fact that 80% of the most socially deprived wards TO THIS DAY are Catholic I would wager that ‘not an inch’ would have changed if things were allowed to continue.

      • Am Ghobsmacht June 15, 2014 at 4:01 am #


        Fancy seeing you in a place like this.

        “do you think that there would have been progress if people had not stood up and said that enough was enough and demanded equality? ”

        But that’s my point Morph, people WERE standing up and demanding equality.

        NICRA were doing just that and the images of the peelers beating protestors no doubt evoked sympathy worldwide.

        They would have continued to do so.

        Do you think the folks in England would tolerate have tolerated this for decades? Really?

        Look at how little they know about NI now what with the internet, continuous news footage etc.

        Any that do know anything about NI are generally appalled by the actions of fleggers and unionists.
        Can you imagine how naïve and how ignorant they were back then?

        It would have taken a while yes, but after a while they would have stepped in.

        Think of all the sympathy generated by the civil rights groups.

        Then think how much of this sympathy would have been blown away (literally) by Provo bombs in England, by sending people home in body bags etc.

        What did the IRA actually truly achieve in two and a half decades of violence?

        The removal of the RUC?

        Did the civil rights movements not pave the way for the removal of the B Specials? True, they were replaced by the UDR BUT to be fair, the spectre of the IRA was partly responsible for that.

        So, two steps forward, one step back.

        I don’t actually see what the IRA achieved in comparison to the legwork that the civil rights groups put in.

        OK, ‘too little too late’ might be the cry.

        Is it realistic to speculate that decades of peaceful protests with typical unionist aggressive reaction would have been ignored and would still be ignored to this day?

        I understand that there was frustration and a feeling that enough is enough, but I am far from convinced that turning on the army was the wise thing to do.

        By turning on the army (as natural as that might have felt after the Falls Curfew) it opened the door for more soliders.

        More Paras.

        More secret service and ‘dirty tricks’.

        More bases.

        More ‘blind eye turning’ to unionist/UDR injustices

        It robbed the Catholic equal rights cause of well deserved sympathy and replaced it with a resentful co-operation with the unionists, RUC and UDR and indeed in some cases reluctant support.

        Think of all the major nationalist injustices over the decades and think about how many of them were made worse by IRA violence.

        I am simply not convinced it was the smart way to go.

        Of course, I say that as some one who wasn’t even around in the 70’s, who has the benefit of hindsight and is (at present) very far removed from the ever steaming pressure cooker that is Northern Ireland.

        I attack fleggers, the OO and unionists a lot because I see many of their reactions to be bereft of logic, long term thinking or indeed respect.

        It is through this same prism that I examine the IRA’s violence and as of yet remain to be convinced that it was a good idea.

        It hobbled sympathy for a worthy cause.

        Easy for me to say though.

    • Francis D June 13, 2014 at 2:10 pm #

      AG, I have to say that on reading your analysis it came across to me as well thought out, intelligent and wisely measured. Many Unionists deny that 50 years of misrule helped fill the powder keg which eventually blew.
      Presbyterians almost to a man in Ireland were the founding fathers of Republicanism in Ireland in a mis-rule in the 18th Century which saw them discriminated against by the Established Church and almost as badly off as the Catholic population as a whole. Mischief and Orangism soon brought them in from the cold after 98′ and the seeds of Sectarian division liberally dispersed and funded by those who opposed the United Irish Egalitarian project for an independent, socially just Ireland for all, away from the shackles of Empire, or complicity in it. Orwell said that those who control the present, control the past, and those who control the past may control the future. I do not think this an absolute in political terms, although it can be made to be depending on how much Government can be made actively held to account for its excesses. Re Ireland, we inevitably all must made accomodation in this small Island. Understanding the nature of the mischief that has fostered division in the past, may just let us all take possession of its truths without distortion, and Iin the prior spirit of commonality that so all our forefathers of common cause, seize a dynamic and progressive future.

      • Am Ghobsmacht June 15, 2014 at 4:46 am #



        I simply just look for the harmful aspects of everyone’s role in Northern Ireland (or indeed Ireland).

        Everyone wants their point of view looked at, but just because you can see where some one is coming from doesn’t make them right.

        For instance, I can see very well where Orangemen and fleggers come from (having grown up in Orange culture and having had a very paranoid fleggy mindset once upon a time).

        But their stances don’t stand up to scrutiny.

        When I take the same magnifying glass to some aspects of nationalism, I am equally unconvinced.

        But I consequently find that the logical scrutiny that many nationalists apply to unionism’s many bloopers is somewhat thinner on the ground when nationalism is under the spotlight.

        Not entirely absent (as demonstrated by people like Morpheus above and a few other level headed commentators over on slugger o’toole) but certainly the same heat isn’t there.

        I feel that blind nationalism simply fuels blind ‘anti-nationalism’ as personified with our range of fleggers, Brysons, Frazers etc.

        “Understanding the nature of the mischief that has fostered division in the past, may just let us all take possession of its truths without distortion, and Iin the prior spirit of commonality that so all our forefathers of common cause, seize a dynamic and progressive future.”

        I agree whole heartedly and I think key to this is admitting where we (and each other have went wrong, there’s just too much defiance at present for anything drastic or lasting to come about.

  5. paul June 13, 2014 at 11:14 am #

    I read the times article and my first thought was who is this guy, keena, to ignore the democratic vote of the people and call for the eradication of SF? I keep returning to the ‘imagine if a SF person stated this” mentality. Whether you are pro SF or anti SF, they have a significant mandate that must be listened to. otherwise why hold an an election? So because Mr Keena doesn’t like the results , we should throw them out? Another case of a poltician and /or member of the press telling the great unwashed that only they know what what is really good for them. Cal I hope you are correct, that people are ignoring the calls from the press and pulpit and thinking for themselves, maybe then we’ll get that all inclusive ‘new’ Ireland

  6. paddykool June 13, 2014 at 12:27 pm #

    Jude :

    For anyone who did not live and grow up as a teenager or young adult in the 1960’s {especially the late 1960’s } it is very difficult to get across the hidebound conservative and almost fascist world people in Northern Ireland and the Republic lived in.
    For one thing all the information was being gleaned mostly through two television channels which broadcast for only a few hours daily. There were many fewer radio channels too. Other than that there were a handful of newspapers feeding into two very separate communities . Even in rural towns there would be a newspaper aimed at the nationalist population and one aimed at the unionists.I dare say it’s similar today.News items are still avidly censored to promote a viewpoint. They had usually some political bias too as they would have been owned by political figures.. Outside of that there was word- of- mouth, gossip and your own eyes and ears.There was no world -spanning internet communications nor handy video evidence on your pocket phone to flag up any criminality on the streets.
    Not to put too fine a point on it , people and politicians literally got away with murder.{ well, if not murder, certainly law-breaking}
    On the streets there were “civil rights ” marches , mostly based on Martin Luther King’s example in the USA. the background was discrimination locally,the Vietnam War , apartheid in South Africa , women’s liberation, the riots in Paris and of course the ongoing worldwide youthful counter-culture.None of that was going to cut any ice with the very conservative elements in Northern Ireland who were quite happy in their neat little closed -off mindset of ” children’s swings closed on a Sunday “..
    Equally conservative was the mindset of the Catholic church who also had a problem with all things sexual and got themselves into an uproar about the corrupting influence of literature such as “the Gingerman”, Roth’s “Portnoy’s Complaint” and anything written by Edna O’Brien. The establishment was under attack both north and south.
    Try explaining all that to a bunch of guys who were being told at a rally or in some country Orange Hall that these civil rights marchers were really another republican plot …the old enemy in a different guise ..and the spawn of the pope , to boot!!
    They just didn’t get it at all and they over-reacted …leading to batoning on the streets, stoning, burning out homes and eventually shooting off the streets. They were whipped up into a paranoia by people like Ian Paisley who , equally conservative , had ideas on seizing power in a fasacistic way. Who the hell was Gerry Adams? He didn’t exist in all of this .
    When a bunch of us students marched from Newry to Dublin on a civil rights march , it was a bit of an overnight adventure but it was mostlty about censorship and discrimination in the north and South by the Establishment. It was a cry against the bullshit.
    The likes of the provos were given their very life by the people that burnt out their homes and families in Belfast and Derry. People left the cities in droves and ended up in Lurgan, Armagh and Newry because of those street attacks. That killed the civil rights movement too and polarised the situation even further. Prior to that , thinking people from right across the board knew what morality was. .People should have known the difference between right and wrong , but when the streets burst into flames, nobody thinks about those fine details .That’s aluxury reserved for people well away from the heat and for politicians who can lie easily to themselves and the world..
    Our southern neighbours have no real idea what happened in Northern ireland…no more idea than some of our bloggers here who never lived in those times . They may as well be standing in Bantry Bay gazing out towards America. They’d be as close and would know as much about the fear.

  7. Iolar June 13, 2014 at 5:33 pm #

    Blinding Sight

    Colman Candy’s Legal blog on 1 November 2008 stated, “Just like the arcane world of Irish politics where transparency is often lacking, only a selective few can really see what’s going on. Luckily one of them is sitting opposite me…Colm Keena” Bruce Arnold’s book, “The Irish Gulag” demolished the myth of romantic Ireland, island of saints and scholars. A brutal regime perpetrated acts of unimaginable horror on its most vulnerable children. Perhaps Mr Keena’s exclusive focus on the I.R.A. is the result of a defective vision.

  8. William Fay June 13, 2014 at 10:03 pm #

    Jude, I have a cunning idea, in the interests of fairness and in order to appease the minority, why doesn’t the RoI government fly the Union flag from Dublin Castle for a number of times per year. Maybe the Unionist minority will stop whinging and get on with life down there, ah sorry, they don’t whinge do they, they have accepted their lot as a minority in that country, pity the minority up here wouldn’t do the same

    • morpheus June 13, 2014 at 10:49 pm #

      Who is this minority William? And what is their ‘lot’?

      • William Fay June 13, 2014 at 10:57 pm #

        work it out , it’s really not that difficult

        • Antonio June 14, 2014 at 6:42 am #

          you come across as a real bitter and angry individual. By the way Nationalists/republicans/catholics are no longer a minority in northern ireland.

          • William Fay June 14, 2014 at 6:43 am #

            Thanks for that Antonio, but you know nothing about me

        • morpheus June 14, 2014 at 8:02 am #

          Ah right, the taigs should know and accept their place as second class citizens eh?

          What happens when that shoe goes on the other foot?

          You stay classy Willy (how apt)

          • William Fay June 14, 2014 at 11:23 am #

            yes morpheous, about as classy as the bigoted republican posts I read on here everyday

    • Am Ghobsmacht June 15, 2014 at 5:16 am #


      Should ‘the’ day come where the is a united Ireland, posts and opinions like yours put us in a very bad negotiating position.

      If we can’t offer some compromises or tokens of respect then why the Dickens should the new order throw us any bones at all?

      “New flag?”


      “New anthem?”


      “Can we keep some street names?”


      “Erm, can the 12th be a regional holiday?”

      “Hmmmm, let me think…… Nope”

      A lot of unionists talk about how they would just toe the line if a united Ireland comes about as if it would somehow embarrass ‘themuns’ by showing them how a minority ‘should behave itself’.

      That somehow all the animus towards Republican symbols will just evaporate and that “aw well, that’s that”.

      Could there be ANYTHING more encouraging for a republican to hear than a sentiment like that?

      “Apparently, if we get our way then they’ll accept it”

      “Even the fleg?”

      “Even the fleg…”

      You have just about rubber stamped the SF strategy.

      What’s the point in being so hostile to republicanism if you’re just going to accept it in the end (and that end will come as unionism is doing nothing to attract Catholic voters of a pro ‘status quo’ persuasion).

      Well done.

      I am literally ghobsmacht.

      • neill June 15, 2014 at 9:08 am #

        Good Lord you do go on.

        Under no circumstances would i want you ever to negoiate on behalf of unionism your basic strategy is weakness of course the republican contributors on this blog like you because you have no backbone full stop.

        I like Williams stanse at least he is honest you on the other hand seem to have no bottom line whatsover.

        • Am Ghobsmacht June 15, 2014 at 9:52 am #

          My basic strategy is dealing with reality.

          I am also prepared to compromise. It’s one of those annoying necessities of life.

          This ‘backbone’ that you speak of is the ‘easy way out’ as it involves placating the mobbish elements within unionism.

          Hence after 40 years NI still doesn’t have its own flag, because that would be a ‘surrender’.

          Parades are still controversial because ‘good strong-willed men’ won’t ‘give in’ and make a few decent honest to goodness compromises that the rest of the civilised world would see as mandatory for entry into the club of semi-civilised cultures.

          Relatively few Catholics support the NI football team for it would be treason of Lundy proportions to fly a neutral flag and follow the ( UK sporting standard) of playing a regional anthem.

          If you can’t see the writing on the wall Neill well then so be it.

          You say it’s a lack of backbone but who’s more likely to face the wrath of the mob, me, someone who is pointing out that unionism has had years to change and has to wake up to the reality that NI’s future is in the hands of the Northern Irish Catholics or you, someone who gives the impression of ‘ain’t broke, don’t fix’.

          You follow (as far as I can tell) the course of mainstream unionism.

          Mainstream unionism has been played like a fiddle by SF for years.

          Pardon me if I don’t want to dance to their tune.

          You on the other hand can be my guest.

          Dance monkey dance.

          (Interestingly at least one person who follows this site has called me an ‘uber-brit’ and another has referred to me as a ‘cunning unionist’. How many cages have you rattled with your predictable and easily out-wittable “no surrender!” strategy?).

          “They came on in the same old way and we defeated them in the same old way.” – The Duke of Wellington.

          If unionism has been losing for decades by remaining unchanged then perhaps it’s time for a rethink?

  9. Jude Collins June 14, 2014 at 1:12 pm #

    Are you familiar with the theory of projection, William?