Squinter has been a regular feature of the Andersonstown News since the early 1970s. The diary column has been written by a number of people over the years and the present incumbent has been taking a sideways look at the week just gone – or indeed the one to come – for over 20 years now. The column has a wide remit, wandering from humorous items of local interest to local and national politics. See Squinter on Twitter for daily doses of the funny, the strange and the totally bonkers.
IT all started so well. Michelle O’Neill, in a very thoughtful and revealing interview with the ever-excellent Mark Carruthers, revealed some disturbing truths about how she was treated at school when she became pregnant at 16.
KATE Hoey sent a lovely message on Twitter to those participating in the massive Pride parade in Belfast on Saturday, which came straight from the heart and was deeply appreciated by everyone who read it. “Hope everyone on the #Pride2022 march in Belfast has a great day,” she tweeted. So far, so good. “BUT,” she continued (and the capital letters spoke volumes about her passion), “why is the Chief Constable spending money on police car branding? #politicalcorrect nonsense.” Her tweet was accompanied by a picture of a police 4X4 with a rainbow strip below the driver’s side doors and the words ‘Police with Pride’. Let’s see now. The display is a removable decal – a strip of plastic upon which the desired words or symbols can be printed and then stuck to the side of the vehicle to be removed or put back on as desired. Design, materials, printing... Squinter’s no expert, but he’s gonna say it cost maybe a hundred quid. Perhaps two. Hell, let’s go completely bonkers and say it was three hundred quid. That won’t pay the overtime of two police officers on the Eleventh or Twelfth of July, which are the biggest and by far the most expensive policing operations the service carries out every year. £300 might pay for a crew of firefighters to get their safety gear on and slide down the pole when a bonfire goes wrong, but if that’s their entire budget they’re not leaving the station. £300 might be enough for Belfast City Council to clear litter from the City Hall front lawn after a busy summer lunchtime, but the bill’s still not in for the Mid and East Antrim Council clean-up operation in Larne after a 200ft monstrosity collapsed all over Craigyhill. And sadly, £300 is nowhere near enough to replace even one cracked and melted uPVC window frame, never mind an entire house frontage.
AT a time of great global uncertainty, fear and confusion little rays of sunshine are all the more warming and welcome. Last week on TV there appeared a lovely little story from County Antrim – a story in which Squinter has had a modest and fleeting hand. Wildlife lover Ciarán Walsh moved some years ago to the countryside near Crumlin where he has been able to devote incredible amounts of time and energy to pursuing his passion for saving the barn owl. The number of mating pairs of the magnificent native Irish bird has dropped alarmingly over the years thanks mainly to changes in farming practices which have decimated both their habitat and their food source. And so Ciarán, possessed of all the necessary official permissions and licences required to interact with the barn owl, has been erecting nest boxes in areas where the bird formerly thrived, and he has been laying out seed to swell the numbers of the various rodents which are the mainstay of the barn owl diet. In 2018 Squinter assisted Ciarán in the ringing of six owlets at a nest in an old farm outbuilding – a brood size rarely if ever seen. It was the thrill of a lifetime and the personal excitement of getting up close and personal with one of Ireland’s most beautiful and iconic birds was mixed with a feeling of huge satisfaction that Squinter had helped in whatever tiny way in the battle to save to the barn owl. So when news broke last week that four more chicks had been ringed at another County Antrim nest – an event attended and reported on by our wildlife correspondent Dúlra in a wonderful article which you can read now on the Belfast Media Group website – thoughts of war and global warming and recession were temporarily swept away and Squinter found himself smiling broadly at the TV report which brought us the glad news and which was tweeted out by RTÉ. The report was also watched by former First Minister, Jot and Tittle Dodger, Crocodile Wrangler and Protocol Broker Arlene Foster. Now Arlene, as we know, is a great promoter of Our Wee Country. In fact, many, if not most, of her tweets are accompanied by the hashtag #ProudofNI. So one might have expected that this latest boost to the barn owl population of loyal Ulster would have been greeted with delight. Far from it. Arlene’s first thought on watching a television report detailing a huge success in the fight to save the barn owl was to complain that the words ‘Northern Ireland’ weren’t used in the RTÉ tweet and report. She tweeted in response: “I see after 101 years RTE News still can’t call us by our properly constituted name #NorthernIreland #ProudofNI”
“IRISH media must stop reporting the Twelfth like they are reporting on a different species.” So ran the headline of a feature in this week’s Belfast Telegraph, after a Twelfth week that we’ve been repeatedly assured by the, ah, Irish media, was one of the quietest for years. The trouble with the Twelfth, of course, is that it’s not just the Twelfth. It’s the long, dreary months from spring to the Eleventh Night when we watch the bonfires going up with kids lounging around them on stained mattresses and old sofas. It’s the flags going up every day after April at interfaces, at new housing estates where Taigs might be tempted to live, outside Catholic schools and churches. It’s the UDA and the UVF visiting businesses seeking money for band uniforms and instruments. There are elements within the southern Irish media which know nothing about the Twelfth. But there are elements within the Northern media who know absolutely nothing about the Twelfth either. Oh, sure, they know about the laughing kids lobbing red, white and blue batons in the air as they prance in front of the bands and they know about the wheezy accordions and shrill flutes of the rural parades where never a raised voice is heard. But they know nothing about the Deep Twelfth: the Homeric drinking that goes on from the Eleventh through to the Thirteenth: ‘No Surrender Three Day Bender’. They know nothing about the Sandy Row madness that passes for a street party and which this year was repudiated even by the community group which formerly organised it. And there’s nothing wrong with that because 99.99 per cent of the Catholics in Belfast also know nothing about it because they’re terrified to go anywhere near it. Squinter, as the history of this column has shown, is in that .01 per cent. For years he’s been attending not only Twelfth parades, he’s been shoulder-to-shoulder with the drinkers in the Scarva demesne, the blue bag divisions in East Belfast and, yes, he’s been among the heaving mass of booze-soaked humanity in Sandy Row who believe a 24-hour rave is a central part of loyalist culture. Nobody reports the Twelfth like they are reporting on a different species. The parades on the Twelfth are reported on in the North in an overwhelmingly celebratory fashion and in the South with a degree of restrained incomprehension. But it’s not the Twelfth that’s the problem. It’s not the elderly couples in deck chairs with their legs covered in tartan blankets watching the parades with a flask of tea and sandwiches in tinfoil that are the problem. It’s not the men in bowler hats and white gloves queuing patiently to get into a gospel tent in the Field for a feed of meat and potatoes and scripture who are the problem. It is the other Twelfth that is the problem. It’s the six-month Twelfth and its debilitating drip-feed of division and confrontation that is the problem. The truth of the matter is that the Rangers-shirted rave-goer with pupils the size of saucers hand-dancing to a club banger in Sandy Row is indeed a different species from the man with the sword and the Bible in Enniskillen. A different species of Protestant. A different species of loyalist/unionist. Unlikely to be a different species of Orangeman, because he’s unlikely to be an Orangeman. And separating him out from the gospel tent and bowler hat brethren is not the job of Irish journalists, it’s the job of the Orange Order. This year when Squinter talked to friends and colleagues about attending Sandy Row in the evening he got the familiar response: ‘Are you mad?’ Far from it. Fair enough, if Squinter went in a Celtic shirt carrying a Papal flag it’s likely to get hairy. But the depressing – and for a Falls Road Fenian deeply comforting – fact is that every person there is too far gone to give a fig about who’s who. It’s like a Happy Mondays gig with union jacks and WKD. The following goes completely unsaid in the Irish media – Dublin and Belfast – but Sandy Row on the Eleventh and Twelfth is a complete madhouse. The towering inferno beside the Holiday Inn is described online by loyalists as the ‘South Belfast Cultural Bonfire’. But Sandy Row over the Twelfth has about as much to do with unionist or loyalist culture as a shopping trolley in a canal. The place is filthy. The drinking is Homeric. The lack of order and control complete. If you’re a unionist, Protestant or Orangeman reading this, don’t take Squinter’s word for it – go along next year.
THERE’S no sense beating about the bush here. A young man has been killed at a bonfire in Larne and that’s a tragedy for his family and all who knew and loved him. But the depth of the sorrow and pain being felt in Larne and across the loyalist community should not stop us from pointing out the complete madness that is loyalist bonfire ‘culture’. On the contrary, if other tragedies are to be prevented, then we are duty-bound to focus on the utter irresponsibility of those who condone and enable this yearly display of health and safety insanity. This isn’t anything new as far as this particular column is concerned. For a quarter of a century and more Squinter has been highlighting this annual slap in the face to every basic concept of public safety, but elsewhere there’s a kind of media omerta in place about the deadly nature of what loyalists have this year begun to refer to as ‘cultural bonfire sites’. The same papers which regularly publish articles about companies being fined for breaching health and safety regulations publish appreciative articles about the incredible engineering skill that goes into building the biggest boneys. One unionist councillor last wee claimed that bonfire builders wear harnesses these days, which would be a welcome development, except he was quoted beside a picture of a man clinging by his fingertips to the side of the monstrous Craigyhill bonfire. Last week it was a popular and grimly funny subject on social media; this week it can be seen as the sick insult that it was. Almost as sick as the decision by Mid and East Antrim Borough Council to dismantle the bonfire the day after the tragedy occurred. What reason was there for this decision? Was it to prevent further deaths? Hardly, because the Council – like every other Council in the north – is fully aware of this annual game of Russian roulette but chooses to do nothing about it. Until a man lies bloody and broken beneath the pallets. Is it as a mark of respect to the man’s family and community? If so, perhaps a better mark of respect would have been to do their job and ensure that people are kept safe instead of turning the yearly blind eye.
CHARLIE Lawson is going to co-present GB News’s live coverage of the Twelfth parade in Armagh with Arlene Foster, so he is.
SQUINTER’S been talking to a senior DUP figure about the party’s decision not to nominate anyone to sit on the Derry and Strabane Council’s Bonfire Working Group. It’s the second year in a row that Donaldson’s Defenders have snubbed a body which aims to lessen tensions in the city in the bonfire season. – Good morning.– No surrender!– What?– Come on, it’s nearly July. Join in the craic.– Um, okay. Now what’s this about you not getting involved in sorting out this bonfire issue?– We’ve sorted out the bonfire issue.– Really? In what way?– We’ve told our ones to build away till their hearts’ content.– Says here that the DUP is “annoyed” about a number of issues.– More than a number, mate, we’re annoyed about so many things I can’t even remember most of them.– Well, specifically, you say you are annoyed about the Protocol…– Annoyed? Bloody flaming, more like.– And about policing.– You betcha.– What is it about policing that annoys you exactly?– Pretty much everything.– And you’re annoyed about the snubbing of the Centenary celebrations.– Disgraceful. The Centenary was a celebration for everyone.– Except Catholics.– Whaddya mean?– The big parade earlier this month was organised by the Orange Order.– Your point being?– The Orange Order excludes Catholics.– Up to a point, yes. They can’t, like, join in the celebrations, but they can come and watch if they like.– Very good of them.– I think so. And of course the Centenary celebration was a perfect example of inclusion and community spirit.– Except for the Michaela McAreavey song.– Unfortunate lapse. The exception that proved the rule.– Of course it was. Anyway, the bonfires. How is letting people set fire to things without any restrictions going to help you with the Protocol, policing or the Centenary?– It will send a powerful signal to those in power that we are not going to be pushed around.– A smoke signal?– Cheap shot.– I know. So burning old sofas and pishy mattresses and sending cancer fumes into the air is a powerful message to London, Brussels, Dublin, the Chief Constable and Catholics?– It most certainly is.– I see here that there’s a massive pile of tyres at a bonfire on the Waterside.– I know. Magic, isn’t it?– And you’re going to do nothing about it?– On the contrary, I personally am going to help put them in the middle of the boney.– And in the process polluting the Derry air?– ’Scuse me, Londonderry air.– That’s Danny Boy.– What on Earth are you talking about?– Never mind.– So how do you expect the various bodies you’re annoyed with to react to this?– Well, we know for a fact that Maros Sefcovic watches the Londonderry bonfire scene very closely.– He does?– Oh, yes. And we have it on good authority that the mattresses and the sofas and the tyres have the health and safety Nazis in Brussels worried.– I’m sure they have. Are you excited about the live coverage of the Twelfth by GB News?– Over the moon. Arlene Foster’s going to be a brilliant presenter. We asked her to come on the Eleventh Night and put the torch to our boney, but she refused.– Prior engagement?– No, actually. Bit reluctant to be pictured burning stuff after the RHI thing.– Did you know that the GB News slot the live coverage is going to be on regularly has an audience that is too small to be counted?– So?– Probably be more people looking after their bees than watching.– It’s the thought that counts.– I read that you applied to the Conservative Friends of Loyal Ulster for funding from their Securing the Union Fighting Fund.– We did.– And?– Let me just read this here... Oh, yes. ‘Funds Not Available in Northern Ireland.’– Any plans for Protocol protests on the Twelfth?– Oh, yes. We ordered some cracking ‘Ditch the Protocol’ banners from GB’s leading supplier.– How do they look?– We don’t know yet – they’re held up at the border.
Cancel culture salesmen oddly immune from the problem YOU don’t hear so much about it now because the word has become so much a part of our daily vocabulary, but when Squinter was a boy and a young man he regularly heard complaints about the increasing use of the word “cheers” as a substitute for “thanks”. It was claimed that the word simply didn’t exist in Belfast – or anywhere else across the North – pre-1969 and that it had been brought here by British soldiers at the start of the Troubles. Perhaps it’s true, perhaps it isn’t, but what’s clear is that the complaints didn’t gain any traction because the word is to be heard everywhere these days. Bit like “cancel culture”. Up until recently the phrase was only to be heard in the British media and it was on the lips of Tories, Brexiteers, Tory Brexiteers, right-wing newspaper columnists and Brexiteer newspaper columnists (which is essentially the same thing, when you think about it). But during a conversation at the weekend Squinter heard the phrase uttered during a pretty harmless conversation about vaping. The claim was made that the increasing number of restaurants and pubs in Belfast that are clamping down on indoor vaping is an example of “cancel culture”, even though it might seem to be a perfectly reasonable thing in the age of Covid (on the rise again) and in relation to a device which is essentially a virus hose in the hands and mouth of somebody infected with the virus. Cancel culture doesn’t exist, needless to say. People have always got the sack or been disciplined or been thrown out of places for bad behaviour. Somebody headbutts you in the works canteen it’s not cancel culture if he gets the heave-ho. Similarly, if people like Squinter don’t like breathing in vapour that has been in the lungs of somebody else it's not cancelling people to tell them to knock it on the head. But the clearest evidence that cancel culture doesn’t exist is not in the frankly comical deployment of the phrase in casual conversations by Jo and Joe Soap in the living room, supermarket or pub, it’s in the fact that the very people who punt the cancel culture myth are people who, if it did exist, would have been the first to be cancelled. But they haven’t been. In fact, they have positively benefited from appalling behaviour that would have seen the aforementioned Jo and Joe given their P45s before they could see “It’s political correctness gone mad.” To use another phrase that is currently growing in popularity, Tories and their media chums who behave appallingly tend to “fail upwards”. The classic example, of course, is the head of the party that’s telling you that cancel culture is going to eat your children and rob your granny: Alexander Boris De Pfeffel Johnson. The rap sheet is a familiar one, but when it’s read while constantly reminding oneself that Johnson and his chums spend their time assuring us that teachers are getting cancelled for saying the word “blackboard” and bacon sandwiches are being cancelled to placate the Muslims, it takes on a new depth of meaning.
THE victory of the Ballymurphy families in their civil case against the Ministry of Defence has been well covered in the days since the settlement was reached. And of course it’s gratifying to see families who have battled for so long reach another important goal as the British Government attempts to shut down legal routes that might bring other families to the High Court for similar further vindication. Squinter has to admit to raising an eyebrow in classic Roger Moore style as he listened to and read and watched the northern media reporting the chronology of cover-ups, lies and deceit as if it happened in a distant jurisdiction and involved other outlets and other organisations. The fact is that the same media outlets this week reporting the history of disinformation and fabrication are the same media outlets that spread the information that blackened and traduced the names of the innocent dead in Ballymurphy and countless other places. 50 years ago this autumn – in November 1972 – the Andersonstown News was created by a group of activist citizens who saw all too clearly that the majority of the media outlets in the North were little more than information sheets for the various armed agencies of the British state. The Ballymurphy slaughter had happened the year before and Bloody Sunday just ten months earlier – both atrocities immediately followed by the most outrageous British calumnies which were slavishly broadcast and printed.
Interview with leading Orange Order member after three members of the loyal order resigned in the wake of the Michaela McAreavey scandal. – Good morning.– No surrender.– What?– Sorry, been a busy couple of weeks, what with the Centenary 100 and Her Majesty’s birthday.– Platinum Jubilee, actually.– Sorry, that’s correct. As I say, lot going on. I’ve been hanging like Pat Butcher’s earrings for four days in a row.– I’d like to talk to you for a bit about the Michaela McAreavey incident.– Shocking. Vile. Abhorrent. Inexcusable.– Says here in your statement that the actions of those involved... let’s see now... ah, yes... “certainly do not reflect the ethos of our organisation”.– Exactly.– Your ethos is a religious one, right?– Absolutely.– A Christian one?– Spot on.– An anti-Catholic one?– Absolutely not. We are upholders of the reformed faith and that is a positive thing. There is no place for anti-Catholicism in our organisation.– I have here in my hand a copy of ‘The Qualifications of an Orangeman’. You’ve read it, I expect.– Read it? It’s on my bedside table.– So you’ll know that Orangeman are required to “strenuously oppose the fatal errors and doctrines of the Church of Rome.”– Your point being?– Well, you say you’re not anti-Catholic, but you can only be an Orangeman if you oppose the Catholic Church.– You’re splitting hairs there, mate.– In the dictionary ‘oppose’ is defined as ‘to act against or provide resistance to; to stand in the way of; to set as an opponent or adversary; to be hostile or adverse to.’– Go on.– And ‘anti’ is defined in the same dictionary as ‘a person who is opposed to a particular practice, party, policy, action etc.’– Which means?– Simply that ‘oppose’ and ‘anti’ are the same things.– Not necessarily.– If you oppose the Church of Rome you’re anti-Church of Rome, correct?– You’re giving me a headache now.– The Qualifications of an Orangemen also require you to “scrupulously avoid countenancing (by your presence or otherwise) any act or ceremony of Popish worship”.– Just right too.– So if the McAreavey family had been your neighbours you couldn’t have gone to Michaela’s funeral, isn’t that so?– A true Orangeman will never condone all that smoke and beads and wine and mumbo-jumbo.– And that would be described as being anti-...?– Heathen?– Catholic. It’s anti-Catholic not to pay your respects because of someone’s religion.– Says you.– But you can go to a Jewish service, yes?– Of course.– A Muslim one?– Probably.– A Moonie one?– You’re just being silly now.– So you’re anti-Catholic Church...– ’Scuse me, opposed to.– Okay, opposed to the Catholic Church.– And you won’t go near a Catholic service.– Wouldn’t dream of it.– You’re not allowed to marry a Catholic?– Perish the thought.– So the ethos of the Orange Order is in large part an anti-Catholic one.– ’Scuse me, an opposed-to-Catholics one.– Fair enough. And if one of the reasons for your existence is not liking the Catholic Church, can you really be gobsmacked when some members live that gospel rather more aggressively than others?– You’ve left out the bit in The Qualifications of an Orangeman about a member’s behaviour being guided at all times by “wisdom and prudence and marked by honesty, temperance and sobriety”. That’s the Orange Order I know and love.– Not much wisdom in staying in a room where a viciously anti-Catholic song was being sung.– Not everybody was singing it.– Not much prudence in staying put and saying nothing.– Is this going to take much longer?– Not much temperance and sobriety in a room with more cans of beer than a Wineflair warehouse.– That’s a cheap shot. And I have to go now.– Another appointment?– Nah. Hangover from hell, mate.
Our man with the sideways look at life took up his camera and went forth to visit the Orange shenanigans at Stormont last week. This is what he found.
Transcript of interview with DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson in the wake of last Thursday’s Assembly election. – Good morning, Sir Jeffrey.– With respaykt, that’s a matter of opinion.– Okay. How do you think the election went?– I thought it was the best election I have ever had as leader of the DUP.– It’s the only election you’ve ever had as the leader of the DUP.– With respaykt, that may be so but it doesn’t change the truth of what I said.– Fair enough. How do you think your vote held up?– Well, I thought it was a very strong showing given that most commentators expected us to fall behind the Workers’ Party.– Who said that?– Bloke on Twitter, some woman on Facebook. Loads of people.– You dropped 40,000 first preference votes.– Yes, but they were all our voters who went to the Rangers match.– You sure about that?– Of course. I watched the match on my phone and Ibrox was coming down with DUP banners.– How many first preference votes do you think Jim Allister’s TUV gained since 2017?– I don’t know, but I’ve a terrible feeling you’re going to tell me.– About 40,000.– Your point being…– Well, you dropped 40,000... the TUV picked up 40,000… You see where this is going?– Not really, no.– Do you think standing beside Jim Allister on the back of a lorry covered in flags at those Protocol protests was a good idea in retrospect?– I most certainly do. I think it galvanised the vote and persuaded thousands of people who care about our Precious Union to come out and show their support.– For the TUV.– Yes. No, wait.– Can you share with us the advice that your Donaghadee barrister shared with you as you chatted together on a Protocol march?– My Donaghadee barrister?– My Cousin Binny. Rumpole of the Failey.– Ah, yes, the wee man. Well, he told me to keep the faith and to ignore the bad polls. He told me that when he was on remand in the clink with Willie Frazier and things seemed at their darkest, he always sang to himself the words of an inspirational song.– Let me guess. Something Inside So Strong? I Get Knocked Down But I Get Up Again?– Every Loser Wins. Nick Berry. Classic. Can’t get it out of my head.– He tell you anything else?– He told me that when he was Ruth Patterson’s election agent in South Belfast in 2016 and things were looking grim the only thing to do was to keep knocking on doors, keep licking those envelopes, keep putting in the hard yards.– And is that what spurred her on to success?– No, she got 400 votes and immediately quit politics, but it was still good advice.– So you’ve said you won’t be nominating ministers to the Executive.– I most certainly won’t.– Why’s that?– We need decisive action on the union-dismantling Protocol.– Decisive action.– That’s right.– You don’t want it binned?– I’m not saying that.– You do want it binned?– I’m not saying that.– What are you saying?– I’m saying I want decisive action by the UK Government.– What does decisive action mean?– It means I want the government to act in a way which is decisive.– For example?– Oh, there are so many things…– Tell me one.– I’d rather not.– Have you told the government what you think they should do?– No.– Why not?– Because I have no idea otherwise we wouldn’t be in this mess.– So no Executive and that £300 million that’s there to be spent right away won’t get spent.– But it will still be there when we come back.– Which will be when?– God knows.– What about pensioners sitting in shopping malls?– Taking a wee rest?– Trying to keep warm.– God love them.– There’ll be no money available to help them with their energy bills.– Sure it’s nearly summer and it’s warming up nicely.– What about waiting lists?– It’s not my fault so many people want a Rangers season ticket.– No, hospital waiting lists.– You need to ask Robin Swann about that.– He can’t access any of that money until you let him.– Always somebody else’s fault with that fella.– What about people eating cold food because they can’t afford to use gas and electricity?– Let’s be honest, who doesn’t love a Magnum?– Tell me, Jeffrey, are you going to resign your Westminster seat?– Ah, now, that would be telling.– You don’t think the people who voted for you deserve to be told that who’s going to actually represent them in Stormont?– Long as it’s DUP, they’re not bothered.– So if you stay on as an MP what would be your choice in the co-opt?– I like their sticky slow-cooked British barbecue ribs. Grrreat.– Not Co-op, co-opt. Who would you pick to take your place in Stormont?– I didn’t say I wouldn’t sit in Stormont.– And you didn’t say you would.– You see? Now you’re starting to understand.
SEEMS everybody’s getting themselves worked up about the issue of trans people. Banners have been put up throughout the city recently by a group called ‘Respect My Sex’, comprised of women who are desperately concerned about trans women in women’s spaces. The banners are intended to send a message to Assembly election candidates and they read: ‘Respect my sex if you want my X’. Sadly, it’s an STV election this week and there are no Xs, only 1s, 2s, 3s and so on, which kind of makes you wonder about the political nous of the group members, but sure never mind. Here's the thing about the trans debate: It’s entirely manufactured. Malign right-wing elements both in Ireland and Britain have identified trans people as an extraordinary vulnerable and easy target, and they’ve identified the trans issue as one that resonates strongly with ordinary people because of the deceptively simple way the argument is framed: ‘Men who identify as women don’t belong in women’s toilets.’ And that has suddenly become the main plank in the bogus culture war that’s being waged to get you to stop thinking about the fact that you can’t heat your home, that Matt Hancock dumped your grandparents into a care home to die and that Tory frauds gave their mates millions in illegal PPE contracts. So they get you to shout instead about people who are trying to live the lives they want to lead. And if men don’t belong in women’s toilets is a powerfully deceptive argument, the argument that men shouldn’t be competing in the Olympics against women weightlifters and swimmers in weapons-grade messaging. Deny that simple reality and you’re going to end up with your head on a stick over City Hall. But if you are indeed one of those suddenly convinced that the trans issue is desperately worrying, ask yourself this question: How come you never thought it before? Is it a coincidence that you suddenly started thinking and fretting about it at exactly the same time as the Tory press started to fixate upon it at a time when the Conservative Party is in dire trouble? You never cared about trans women in toilets, even though they’ve been there for decades and never did you any harm. You never cared about trans women athletes because they’ve been competing in the Olympics for 20 years. You’re only worried about them now because the right-leaning media is telling you to. Last time it was migrants. Time before that teachers. Time before that junior doctors. Time before that judges. Time before that people on benefits. Time before that gay people and HIV. Time before that... If you’re a reader of this column it’s highly doubtful that you fell for any of these – but as Squinter goes about his business it’s clear to him that many Irish people who would scoff at the very idea of being told who to pick on the by the Tory media are happy join the trans pile-on. Without giving it a thought.
THE weekend anti-Protocol protests across loyal Ulster were the first true test of the repeated assurances that the recent Doug Beattie noose incident in Lurgan was an unfortunate aberration and that the campaign against the Irish Sea border is going to be an entirely peaceful demonstration of unionist and loyalist anger. In East Belfast on Friday night, Orange Order Grand Pooh-Bah Reverend Mervyn Gibson took to the flag-draped stage and delivered what the New Letter termed a “bluntly-worded speech” railing against the iniquities of the Protocol. “We’ve had enough negotiations,” he said, without elaborating on how they’re going to stop Larne being a border town without actually talking to anyone about it. The Protocol, he added, is “a political problem that needs a political solution”. But since former Special Branch man Mervyn doesn’t want any more of them oul’ negotiations, how’s a political solution going to be arrived at? Next up, Mervyn got to the heart of the matter when he addressed those really responsible for keeping Our Wee Country in the Single Market. “Republican terrorists failed to bomb and murder us into a United Ireland over these last 101 years. Their apologists, Sinn Féin, cannot bully or bribe us into a United Ireland. They even say they want us as partners in a United Ireland, but their spin and sweet talking will not work, because we know the republican leopard will not change its spots. We are wise to that enemy, whose motto was burn everything British but their coal.” And then it was time for Merv to spread a little peace and understanding. “If left in place the Protocol makes you and I subject to the laws and regulations of a foreign power and in time their influence will spread like a cancer... Apathy was not an option when in 1912 people signed the Covenant. Apathy was not an option when guns were landed at Larne and Donaghadee.” Wow. Super job of calming things down there, Rev. With a similar nod to the need to cooling tensions in the wake of the Doug Beattie Lurgan noose, organisers of the event decided that the main message of the evening was to be ‘Enough is enough’ and that message was placed on a large banner with pride of place at the front of the platform. At which stage it might be worthwhile to stop for a moment and ask ourselves who the organisers are, because that question seems to have turned into a kind of loyalist ‘Where’s Wally?’. The question has been asked of various speakers a number of times in the wake of Noosegate, but nobody seems to have a baldy, with shoulder shrugs being punctuated by various bits of unconvincing speculation. Armed with only that information, the best that Squinter can surmise is that the organisers are a mix of the Moonies, International Rescue and the Loyal Orders. And what image might the organisers have chosen for the ‘Enough is enough’ banner? Well, you might think something that would convince Doug Beattie that nobody really thinks he should be strung up from a lamppost with a double-knotted noose would be helpful.Something that would persuade those people reluctant to attend the protests that they are indeed a purely political and democratic expression of the loyalist mood. Something like... a black and white 1970s image of UDA men in sunglasses and fatigues lined up in military formation (see pic above). The next anti-Protocol protest is in Saintfield Orange Hall on Friday night with the unbeatable, unbelievable, unsurpassed and unelected double act of Kate Hoey and Ben Habib topping the bill. What the anonymous organisers have lined up for this one is anybody’s guess, but we can of course rest assured that in best Ulster-Scots tradition there won’t be a noose loose about the hoose.
SQUINTER must say he enjoyed the Belfast Telegraph’s colourful online picture special on the Easter Monday Apprentice Boys parades across This Here Pravince. History, spectacle, vibrancy – it was all there and Squinter was about to email the picture desk to congratulate them on a job well done when he came across this picture (right). The Billy Boys Flute Band Rathcoole, are one of the newer additions to the Belfast band scene, having been formed as recently as 2018. But what, Squinter wondered as he looked out the window, into the distance and scratched his chin, is a band called the Billy Boys doing in a celebratory picture special beside children eating ice-cream and OAPs sitting in deckchairs with tartan blankets round their knees?