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.
THE funeral last week of leading Sinn Féin figure Rita O’Hare didn’t half grind the gears of the DUP. Come to think of it, there seems to be some kind of emergency cord between any republican funeral and the DUP’s fury alarm.
ARMAGH legend Jarlath Burns is the new President of the GAA, elected to the island’s top sporting position on a landslide. And good luck to him, he’s a classy guy, both when representing club and county on the pitch and subsequently as he’s become more involved in working for and promoting the code he loves.
Tomatoes? Tomatoes? You want tomatoes? Well, let's see if we can get you some. Come with me on a journey from our office to the bottom of the Andytown Road, taking in the Glen Road, Shaws Road and... Andytown. This is not scientific, btw, it's purée a snapshot...
THE Orange Order hasn’t had a great few weeks. First they hold a parade in South Belfast for a UDA man and at the weekend it emerged that they’ve made a wife-killer the most senior Orangeman in County Tyrone. (Squinter should probably qualify that first sentence and point out that for quite a few people this means the Orange Order has had a great few weeks.)
“OVER the last number of weeks the vast majority of people have been appalled by sectarian glorification of the Provisional IRA. An event such as this so-called commemoration for the ‘D Company’ of the IRA does nothing but offer legitimacy and encouragement for sectarianism and division in our community.”
SO the Brits wouldn’t let Mary Lou McDonald attend that meeting...
THE hashtag on the Twitter trending list for Monday read simply #IrelandisFull, interest in the subject of immigration having been piqued by footage online of hundreds of demonstrators gathering outside a Travelodge in Ballymun to scream ‘Send them home!’ at the asylum seekers inside.
In which Bob Cratchit shivers and Ebeneezer Scrooge welcomes a visitor.BOB Cratchit shivered on his high stool and raised his fingerless gloves to his mouth. Through his chattering teeth his breath emerged in a white plume, bringing scant relief to his chilled hands. He picked up his quill again and through the gathering gloom of the late Christmas Eve afternoon, a single coal glowed weakly in the grate, the only source of heat in his tiny room, save for the stuttering flame of a candle stump on his desk.
THE general tenor of a certain piece of reporting in recent days was ‘Human Rights Commission agrees IRA and gangland murders are the same’. Which piece of news came as a huge fillip to those unionists who maintain that the most recent conflict was a case of republican thugs trying to wreck the place out of sheer badness while the put-upon forces of the state tried to hold the ring and loyalist paramilitaries were forced into a sometimes over-enthusiastic and misguided response.
“WE came in fancy dress like many England fans have in the past, but these people did not see the funny side at all – they were very nasty.”
FORMER UUP leader Jim Molyneaux famously observed during the heady days of the mid-1990s that the IRA ceasefire was the most destabilising thing to happen to unionism since partition. Not M60s or culvert bombs; not booby-traps or big city smokies; not Armalites or even ballot boxes – the absence of violence, or to be more specific, the absence of republican violence.
POLICE seized eight handguns and three pipe bombs in an operation aimed against the east Belfast UVF on Friday night past. One of the weapons recovered (right) was the iconic Colt .45 single action army revolver, known in the Wild West as ‘the Peacemaker’ and famously carried by Wyatt Earp. We spoke this week to Wyatt Earp about his decision to join the east Belfast UVF, his deep attachment to loyalism and his hopes that the liquor, girls and gambling subjugating Protocol can be done away with before there’s a return to shoot-outs and stagecoach hold-ups... AH shore didn’t know too much about yore liddle ole prahvince when Ah was jest a plain ole marshal in Tombstone roundin’ up drunks and playin’ three-card monte in the Silver Dollar saloon with mah buddy Doc Holliday. Till up’n around sundown one day the doors done fly open and an ornery lookin’ critter ambled in seemin’ as though he’d sump’n on his mind. His eyes were mean and full uh spite and when he caught my gaze why I’ll be hogtied if a shiver didn’ run down mah spine.
ANYONE expecting an answer to the question ‘Can Ireland Be One?’ by the end of Malachi O’Doherty’s new book of the same title is destined for disappointment. This is no audit of the economic pros and cons of ending partition and nor is it an analysis of the sometimes shiny and sometimes grubby new realities that have rocketed the question of unity to the top of the political agenda. Indeed, Brexit and the Protocol – the two issues which have moved the ground and redefined the terms of the unity debate in a six-year blink of the eye – to all intents and purposes never happened, so seldom are they referred to and so lightly are they passed over. What we have instead is a largely personal series of discursions in which Malachi addresses not those real-world developments which are so rapidly and utterly changing the island’s political landscape, but themes and subjects that will be familiar to those acquainted with his broadcast and print output: a Riverdale Catholic loses his religion and ponders gravely, regretfully and seldom hopefully the age-old question of why we don’t get along. The relegation of the Protocol from leading role to bit part in what could well prove to be the final act of the partition drama would be surprising enough, but there’s also a curious reliance on people writing and working in a time before ATMs and colour television, never mind mobile phones and the internet. Hubert Butler’s 1954 work ‘Portrait of a Minority’, for instance; professional nice bloke Sam McAughtry, who was telling stories on the wireless when Squinter was learning to drink in the Hunting Lodge; Nancy Scheper-Hughes’ 1970s book ‘Saints, Scholars and Schizophrenics’. If there are nuggets of contemporary relevance in these blasts from our grey past, Squinter failed to find them. Malachi’s best and most engaging writing comes in describing for us the rich foliage of his spreading family tree. He’s obviously fascinated and entertained by the contradictions and anomalies thrown up not just by his forebears’ cross-border mobility – as are we – but also by the historical heft of names maiden and married.
LET’S call him Dave. Dave supports Our Boys. Dave remembers them every November (oh, and October) by wearing a poppy. Dave was in Marks and Spencer’s on Boucher Road on Sunday past when the lights were dimmed and the tills closed at 11am for the two minutes silence. Dave could have stayed in the house to watch the Cenotaph ceremony live from London; he could have gone to City Hall to be silent and bow his head to reflect on the sacrifice of those who served. But Dave needed a few things for the Sunday dinner and so he squeezed his solemn act of remembrance in between picking up the gravy granules and sticky toffee pudding. Dave, needless to say, was appalled as he briefly raised his downcast eyes to have a fly juke round him to see so many people with the sheer gall to keep shopping in a shop. Across the city, other acts of remembrance – individual and corporate – were taking place, not least half a mile away from where David stood with his basket and his thoughts, because the UVF and the UDA both held their own poppy day ceremonies to remember the sacrifice of the Shankill Butchers and the Greysteel Gang. Dave wasn’t as annoyed about that as he was about the bloke in Marksies who was on the phone when he should have been remembrancing. Dave rang a radio phone-in to complain about the Irish women’s team singing the Celtic Symphony. He had every intention of cheering on the girls in green in Australia and New Zealand next year, he said, but now he won’t because by singing ‘Ooh, ah, up the Ra’ they are spitting in the face of victims. Back in August he rang the same show to give off about the Wolfe Tones at Féile. Dave didn’t bother ringing the show about the UVF and the UDA wearing poppies and laying wreaths to acknowledge that Lennie Murphy and Basher gave all their tomorrows for our today. He did, however, write a letter to the papers about Michelle O’Neill saying she thought that at the time there had been no alternative to the IRA campaign, adding a paragraph at the end recommending that Queen’s University sack Professor Colin Harvey for being a united Irelander. And he was delighted when the UVF and the UDA wrote a letter to unionist leaders warning of “dire consequences” should there be any hint of joint authority and he is a great admirer of the sterling work of unionist academics at Queen’s down through the years. Dave is four-square behind the DUP meeting the UDA to discuss political developments and he agrees with senior DUP figures that the IRA army council is running Sinn Féin; he believes terrorists should not be allowed in government. Dave was an ardent Brexiteer and at first he agreed with Arlene Foster and Jeffrey Donaldson that the Protocol handed loyal Ulster the keys to Shangri-La, but he too later changed his mind and now believes the Iniquitous and Union-Subjugating Protocol© is a bigger threat to the PUL way of life than the Ra. (See UVF/ UDA “dire consequences” threat above.) Dave is completely supportive of the DUP unilaterally pulling down Stormont at a time of unprecedented economic chaos but he was outraged when Sinn Féin brought the shutters down in 2017. He was glad to hear that a deal was struck in 2018 allowing Stormont to return but after the UDA told the DUP at a meeting they really didn’t like it Dave was glad to see the deal scrapped. More next week from another of the increasing number of Daves out there. And the week after that, no doubt.
EMMA Little-Pengelly believes that people who identify as British are currently being treated like “dirt”. In an impassioned tweet in the wake of a fire at an Orange Hall in Tyrone she wrote: “Those who demonise the culture, traditions, heritage and identity of the British here have to understand the consequence of what they're doing. It must stop. We will not be treated like dirt – abused, attacked and, on issues that matter to us, ignored. Enough is Enough. #Disgrace.”