Monthly Archives: July 2010

There’s a design fault in Northern Ireland: sectarianism

As the brown stuff hit the fan in Northern Ireland over the last two days, I got into a bit of hot water for saying scuzzbuckets on both sides are incapable of letting go because they’ve no other identity than being an opponent, an archenemy…and bog all else to do in-between, despite the amount of money, pipe-dreaming and rejuvenation of the last 16 years. Within a few hours of last night’s recreational rioting You Tube Clips were up on the net, complete with Kaiser Chief’s I Predict A Riot sound-tracks. It’s summer time and the kids need something to do…

After spending three and a half years there, living in neutral, Catholic and Protestant areas (my last address was a rented coastal castle house with a Ranger’s Club at the end of the garden), I felt it would be inappropriate to let it all pass without comment. I attended University there, half-enjoyed a stunt in a tabloid, a summer in PR and researched/wrote a non-fiction book about a paramilitary moll, the sum total allowing an opinion regardless of who that pleases or riles. There seems to be passport-type rights when hauling ‘Northern’ hypothesis about which is a kind of partition of the mind!

And talking of passports, a lot of folk ‘up there’ happen to have a harp on theirs too. About 45% of the NI population aspire to unite with me, allegedly. What goes on is my business because unity would have massive social and economic implications for me and the society I live in. This is, after all, one island with ties of blood, commerce, ideas and history. In my opinion there’s an essential design fault in Northern Ireland that hasn’t been fixed despite agreements and power sharing – namely, sectarianism. Even on the day of the IRA ceasefire back in September 1, 1994 (it was 24 hours old) foundation stones were being laid for a new peaceline which would cut up a park into Catholic and Protestant zones in north Belfast.

People are educated separately, they play different sports, they don’t even share common sports facilities and fields, more than 90% of public housing is segregated, and so on. Obviously children growing up in that environment will see the “other side” as the constant unflappable enemy, even in so-called peace times. I’ve seen this first-hand with kids as young as six. Fond memories of escorting a German photo-journalist around the ‘walled’ areas of Belfast two summers ago and tiny kids on both sides lobbing stones at one another. “Those Orangies are nasty and threw them stones first,” a 6-yr-old freckled girl told us. “My Ma said ye can’t trust those Fenians,” an 11-yr-old boy explained when we drove around the other side to see who was throwing the stones back. It quite took my breath away. The first place they were hearing the sectarian sludge was at home.

Children of the ceasefire are definitively learning the bad lessons of the past. On the republican side the dissidents have a powerful if warped argument. Sinn Fein continues to laud what the IRA did – and what its street army of rioters got up to – during the Troubles. Therefore riots against Orange marches even in post ceasefire 1990s were a legitimate expression of communal anger. They commemorate and lionise those who took part in these protests as well as those who bombed, killed and maimed. Now suddenly there’s an ideological 360-degree turn which nationalists must accept. That any more of that kind of thing is wrong and unacceptable. To which the dissidents will say to both SF and crucially the kids spoiling for a fight in places like Ardoyne: just keep on doing what successive generations were doing, you are no different from them. Unless someone takes the axe to the root and tells a new generation that all that violence, both terrorism and street disorder, was futile and wrong, others will keep emulating it.
 
On a purely social ground the nihilism and destructiveness of youth in the North knows no bounds. In Lurgan they attack a train linking both main cities on the island of Ireland and endanger the lives of their fellow passengers. The overall damage is going to cost millions but to a generation brought up to expect that the state will pay for everything, financial considerations mean nothing. They won’t have to pay the bill! There is a collective lack of public responsibility that is not being tackled. Why? Because during De Troubles it was easier for the Brits to throw money at the problem as a means of counter-insurgency. This ‘strategy’ somewhere along the line became habitual. That’s why there’s more “community” workers than real workers in the North! It has one of the highest rates of civil service workers per capita in Britain. I saw this most glaringly when I applied for ‘Disability Living Allowance’ (DLA). The visiting doctor who came to my house to assess me admitted they were “too scared” to refuse applicants from flashpoint areas like Ardoyne, Shankill, Falls Road, Tiger’s Bay, etc., for fear of repercussions. It’s easier to process the paperwork and flush away any potential grief. I knew of someone who was getting full DLA benefits – including a people carrier, because they romanced a terrorist during the Troubles and were handily claiming ’depression’ from this dating decision all these years later. The money was spent on silver wallpaper, holidays, DFS couches and bikini waxing.
 
Last night’s recreational rioting made me sick on so many levels. A journalist pal rang to say people were “sitting outside on their garden furniture” in the Ardoyne, drinking beer, cheerily watching the riots in the way most people do with a St. Patrick’s Day Parade. A young boy aged about 10 was on his mobile to his mum telling her he’d be home soon if the “cops don’t lift me”. The new mini street armies are desperate to reclaim the hallmarks of a war they weren’t even born in time to recall. It’s a strange kind of sectarian serendipity, is it not? And as for being from Dublin and having an opinion on it, you don’t own the North matey, you just happen to live there.
 
**This post was originally published on the Anti Room Blog, click here to see comments

Warning: bad sex may lead to a good heart

Vaseline. Prized for thickening eyebrows, healing cuts and aiding shoehorns, but a rabid pest if lobbed into rookie hands. It was 1988 and I was emigrating to London in three days and thought it might be a good idea to have sex before I left. It was all a bit new to me, the sex thing, and Random Paul seemed like a grudgingly safe bet. “It really turns me on if The Girl pretends she’s blind,” he smirked, twisting open a giant jar of the finest petroleum jelly. An hour or so later I was stuck to the bed, jellied tripe, while Random Paul bungled off into the sunrise, never to see his faux-blind harlot again.

Last night in Temple Bar, five of us well-watered journos began fly fishing for stories of bad sex and general mortification. As my fellow beer flunkies winced and hemmed and hawed and strained and moaned (and sang Michael Jackson tunes) to avoid coughing up the goods, Generation Game conveyor belt music starting going off in my head. There it was: the toaster, the golf clubs, the cuddly toy, a whole line-up of crap sexual experiences, sliding by as a consumer job lot of lousy shags.

A year after the blind-fantasy-vaseline man I was in the throes of my first serious relationship in London and apparently I was terribly frigid. “You’re not like other Irish girls I met, they were really dirty!” he protested. It was, of course, the start of a long line of gobshite men. To spice things up, and only because he owned a scooter and my flatmate’s boyfriend also owned a scooter, I suggested we try having sex with helmets on our heads. I thought it might be fun. In truth I wasn’t experienced enough to know what ‘spicing up’ meant? There was always helmets in the hall, broken umbrellas in the sitting room and booze in the kitchen. At first it was just sheer hilarious, we had to open up the visors that were steamed-up from laughing. We looked a bit like giant humping flies. But after a while when we really got into it, things got a bit road-crash hectic. Our heads were smashing into each other in full missionary force, my neck auto-whiplashing and the heat inside the helmet made it extremely difficult to breathe. By the time we abandoned our efforts there was nothing left for it but to get pissed and never mention it again. We broke up a few months later.

The London Years (1988-1995) were loud with all kinds of carnal clatterings. The jazz singer with the half-moon penis that he inherited in a bus crash, the Clapham barman who tried to ‘dry ride’ me when I was asleep and got his Winkle caught in his jean’s zip with disastrous ’bloody’ consequences; an ensuing trip to St. Thomas’s Hospital where I had to pretend to medical staff I was his wife. The manic-depressive whose post coitus musings included a desire to fling himself off a motorway bridge. A Sikh guy who used to put my hand down his trousers and say: “Sikh and you will find.” I was desperately, painfully, saturated in unrequited love for him. There was also an Italian IT expert who could only get turned on after watching National Geographic – stuff like wildebeest stampeding on  the plains and open woodlands of Africa. He’d smolder out his nostrils and demand we head to the bedroom for animatistic sex as the programme credits were rising. It was a miracle I made it back to Ireland intact.

So there I was in my early 30s in a pub in north inner city Dublin totally infatuated with a sooty-haired musician with a cheeky grin and those West of Ireland certifiable green eyes. For months I gave him crab-sideways libidinous stares, come-hither smiles and ‘look at me, aren’t I just the dog’s bollix?’ belly laughs. I also made sure he’d hear snippets of personal details and how great my career was progressing, when I was chatting to some of the local deadbeats. I’d lost four stone so amazingly men were glaring back for the first time in aeons and West of Ireland man became so brilliantly reciprocal I had no choice but to bite the bullet and ask him back to my plywood apartment. This was my first blatant seduction and I was sheer delighted with myself.

The next bit happened so fast and so non-passionately that by the time I could say: “Do you want a can of Miller?” he had his cock out in my purple sitting room, demanding to know what I thought. This is still very hard to describe, even now, but there was a foreskin problem of sorts, well most definitely…the full details proffered by him there on the spot. His Ma admitted that she should’ve got him circumcised when he was small but that she really couldn’t bear to “hurt her baby” and ever since he’d started “doing the business” years later, he had to manually fold it over, his nuclear mushroom cloud, and tuck it in like an overgrown pastry lid, before he could get it inside a lady. The entire thing was so shocking that I wish I’d had the guts or gall to utter that famous Wickerman line: “Oh, God! Oh, Jesus Christ! Oh, my God! Christ! No, no, dear God!”

If bad sex doesn’t lead to a good heart, it will certainly lead to a good sense of humour. Last night as the Anti-Room meetup came to a prudent close, five  diehards posed a question no-one with even a quarter of a reputation would ever want to answer: I kept my gob firmly shut. Some things are just better off left dead in the bed, world without end, Amen.

COMMENTS TO THIS POST ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON THE ANTI-ROOM BLOG on July 9th, 2010. Click here to read them.

Get dem money grabbing foreıgners outta Mosney, say Irish racists

As  Mosney residents continue to protest against the transfer of 111 people to different hostels across Ireland, an Irish Facebook group is migrating its own brand of racist invective. [Atrocious grammar in the following is not my own]:

Stop scaming the State, GET THEM ALL OUT, And reopen it for the Irish! – Janice Smith, Baldoyle.

There money grabbing foreıgners tat are responsıble for mst of the problems in tis country – Ray Kelly.

A fat arse politıon open the gates gve them houses for FREE money FREE taxis FREE dıd ya see the cars at mosney i dıd my mate lives near it oh and childrens allowance for theır NONE irish brats – Janice Smith (again).

They will be relocated to somewere else with beds, water, cooker, food, clothes. The homeless Irish in Dublin do not have it this good…They should be forced out, Its not their land – Shane Donnelly, Dublin.

The country barely has a pot to piss in yet they are probably spending millions of taxpayers money on this group of people to be shacked up in mosney – John Clarke, Artane.

The Irish Government gave away a great amenity when they gave Mosney Holiday Camp to asylum seekers without any consultation with the Irish people – Anne Donnelly.

What about the normal irish person out of work now with kids that need a summer holiday we should have it back to ourselfs now and let them look after themselfs – Michael Murphy, Limerick.

What started out as a ‘happy memories’ lament to the traditional Irish holiday of the 1970s/80s, soon turned to racist rants from some of the 5,000-strong Support The Reopening of Mosney group. Since news broke about the Monsey residents last week, a dangerous herd mentality began stomping and tail-swishing in the Irish breeze. Back in 2000, when Mosney’s doors shut for good, hardly anyone ranted and raved or protested at all. They were too busy sunning themselves on cheap package holidays in Majorca, Ayia Napa, Turkey and Bundoran. Of course there were the odd few…like Alderman Frank Godfrey, Mayor of Drogheda, who expressed ‘concerns’ about the local area turning into a ‘ghetto’, and a couple of letters from locals were published in the Irish press.

No-one questioned Fianna Fail’s decision, for instance, to award Mosney owner Phelim McCloskey £15 million [Irish pounds] for leasing the 300 acres and its facilities to the Department of Justice for a five year period. The most pressing concern was where to accommodate the much-loved Community Games that had always been held at Mosney. Bertie came to the rescue and ordered alternative venues in case the housing of ‘refugees’ meant the holiday camp was not available for the games. Apart from that, the transition to a holding camp for asylum seekers barely lasted the month as a news or feature item.

The dour relationship between recession and racism is not new or even news. Since the recession has cosied down like an evil-smelling blanket over Ireland in the last two years, racist incidents (and attacks) have increased at an alarming rate. Just yesterday a new Racist Incidents Support and Referral Service was announced. One of the founders, Sr Stanislaus Kennedy told the Irish Examiner: “For too long, Ireland has been in denial about the racist incidents occurring in our communities and our collective responsibility to combat racism. We know from our experience working with migrants who have experienced racism that people are subjected to violence and threats of violence, have their property damaged and are subjected to racist taunts and discrimination”.

It is the usual yack, that when recession worsens, those who feel most vulnerable look for people to blame and immigrants, foreigners, asylum seekers, basically anyone marginalised, become easy targets. The result is a virulent undercurrent of social unrest and tension, leading to the type of brain-dead rants found on the Mosney Facebook group. Interestingly, there is a total absence of cussed comments towards the real originators of the bust: property developers, banks, politicians. Let’s also be fair here: the Facebook group’s admin are folk with good intention whose message is quite simple: ‘please join this group to share happy memories of the camp and let’s hope one day it [Mosney] reopens’.

Recently, through its membership, the Irish section of the European Network against Racism had cause to insist that Facebook remove a similar group that was using the platform to racially abuse members of the Travelling Community. “Eventually Facebook complied and deleted the group,” explains Ken McCue, International Officer of Sport against Racism Ireland (SARI). “We’ve asked the Gardaí to investigate the Mosney group on Facebook but their powers are limited as it’s published in the US. However, I have reported this hate attack to the Gardaí and ENAR.”

Yesterday after reading the comments on the site I phoned a journalist pal who’d recently been to Mosney to interview some of the residents for a UK paper. He was incensed as I read out some of the malevolent messages splattered all over the group’s wall. “While I was at Mosney I met doctors, engineers, all kinds of professionals that would do anything to work and contribute to Irish society but are not being put to good use because the bureaucratic process is a mess,” he said.

He also talked about a footballer from Africa who coaches young Irish kids for free, using his own pittance to get out and train them. “I was also hugely impressed at how clean the Mosney flats were, even the stairwells were spotless unlike native Irish ones which are reeking of piss, covered in graffiti and strewn with used needles.”

The fact that the Mosney residents are not allowed rent or own property, they are only allowed stay in these hostels…that they live on €19 per week, and cannot work, or that the money to accommodate them stems from EU funds, seems to have alluded most of the ranters on the Mosney site. And let’s be clear on this €19 for the plelthora of ignorami out there who’ve never bothered asking how the payment is chopped up or made. On an asylum seeker’s social welfare receipt, there’s the full whack of €196 per week allocated that any Irish unemployed person gets…minus €177 that goes direct to the landlord on behalf of the State. And guess who’s in bed with the state when it comes to choosing/allocating landlords and accommodation? Very good, you’ve guessed right: property developers, investors, business folk, etc., the real ‘money grabbers’ who made handy lucrative deals with government to provide this much needed shelter. Make no mistake, the asylum process here is an enormous business machine and one of the few going concerns in Ireland right now in a constant state of profit.

By contrast to the reams of racist tripe we’ve been hearing of late, a letter in today’s Irish Times mirrors what a lot of ordinary Irish people feel about the plight of the residents: ‘It is bad enough that these most vulnerable of people must put their lives on hold for up to seven years while the Department of Justice decides their fate, but to herd them around like cattle from one holding pen to another is an outrage. Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern and his officials should hang their heads in shame,’ it read.

Mags Treanor, a poet from Galway, who has worked with asylum seekers, has reported the Facebook page to the authorities for incitement to hatred. “To hear that people [on this site] actually think asylum seekers are the cause of the current economic situation and not the greedy Irish business people who creamed money from the state for using it as an accommodation facility is absolutely ridiculous,” she said.

Around 96% of refugees in Ireland have their initial asylum applications rejected under a system human rights campaigners have denounced as “inhumane”. Only Greece has a lower rate of accepting asylum seekers in the EU, taking in just 1.2% of refugees, according to the European commission body Eurostat. In the UK, 26.9% of asylum applications were accepted upon application last year. On appeal, those numbers rose to an estimated 30% for the UK, but to only 7.8% in Ireland, Eurostat said. [Source: The Guardian]

While the people of Mosney have yet to find out their fate, the racist underclass in Ireland continues to lobby for the return of their holiday camp, which in my memory at least, was famed for its floating turds in the glass-encasaed swimming pool, karaoke (before karaoke machines) and greasy chips in polystyrene cones. In all reality this latest round of Facebook ‘comments’ is nothing to do with feeling sentimental about a budget holiday destination or about expressing how broke and marginalised, frightened and powerless, people feel during recession. It is about blame and ignorance and stupidity and how the moral impunity of social networking allows hate to thrive.

“The five years given to house asylum seekers is up and that’s that,” writes Sarah Heavey. Her opinion is fairly typical of many who have left messages so far: ”Either re-house them like planned or send them home. I am not racist and I truly sympathise with them, but Ireland is in financial ruin now and reopening Mosney will provide much-needed employment, as well as providing holidays for people.”

  • COMMENTS TO THIS POST WHICH ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON THE ANTI-ROOM BLOG from July 6th, 2010. You can read the slurry of comments here