THE British Government has placed some 30 asylum seekers in the Loughshore Hotel in Carrickfergus. Squinter knows it well for a couple of reasons – the hotel sprang to prominence two years ago when a charming bridal group made their entrance into the reception room singing ‘Simply the Best’ with ‘F**k the Pope’ add-ons. And he likes the ten-mile walk from Whiteabbey to Carrickfergus and back with the binoculars because you get great views of waders and seabirds, as well as shipping on the lough and the Bangor and Hollywood shoreline.
Local DUP Councillor Marc Collins isn’t happy about the new arrivals – he’s not happy at all. In fact, he’s concerned. So concerned that he has been in touch with the Home Office, Mid and East Antrim Borough Council (on which he sits) and the police about the matter. And then he took to Facebook to share his reservations with the world. This was an important development as he normally spends his time online posing for pics in his bandman uniform.
“I can already see the claims of racism that are going to come my way, but that’s not what this is about,” he wrote. Now if you’re not a big fan of racial division, that’s not an observation that’s going to fill you with confidence, but let’s crack on.
Cllr Collins is of the view that the town has “plenty within our own communities who need help first and foremost”. He added: “I am all for helping those who need help when they truly need it, but there are questions that need to be asked around this situation.”
So, essentially, Marc thinks that the money being spent on asylum seekers should be spent on helping people in Carrickfergus. Now, while the boul’ Marc clearly knows a lot about flutes and drums and hats and gloves and all, he seems not to be up to speed on the Home Office’s budget or its mission If Squinter’s understanding Marc correctly, he wants the Home office to stop spending money on putting brown people up at the Loughshore Hotel and send it instead to Carrickfergus to be spent on the town’s most needy citizens. Which is not only worryingly bonkers, but ignores the fact that if they weren’t in the Loughshore Hotel they’d have to be put up somewhere else. Unless Marc has some other bright idea.”
“Why can’t our homeless veterans be put up in hotel accommodation until a home is found for them?” asked Marc, apparently under the impression that the Home Office has responsibility for veterans instead of, um, the Office for Veterans’ Affairs.
“What happens if a crime is committed in the town?” To be honest, Marc has a point here. We should all be worried if the legendary peace of Carrickfergus, maintained assiduously for years by the lovely South East Antrim UDA, is in peril. If Carrickfergus isn’t careful it may turn into a drug-dealing hub where roaming rival gangs attack each other and people are shot to death on the streets and families are put out of their homes. So far the DUP has ignored calls for Marc Collins to be censured over the remarks, which led to a flood of outrage in the media, mainstream and social.
It’s far from the first time that the councillor has found himself in hot water over his social media activity. After a protest in the town a few years back, Marc had this to say about the police: “What about the demonstration of band members, loyal orders and peaceful protesters… unfortunately we have to suffer this unruly mob as a ‘police force’. So much for ‘To Serve and Protect’. Scumbags.”
And later: “Three meat wagons full of officers to take a few bottles of beer off band members and spectators enjoying their day out. Pure scum.”
Marc’s party and council colleagues were so outraged by this vile attack on the police that he thereafter landed a place on the local Police and Community Safety Partnership.
In another post, he enquired of a friend: “Yo c**n features, what time you getting back from the Fenian valleys?” (NB: Squinter is, ah, polishing Marc’s grammar and spelling in all of this.)
Of Sinn Féin’s Martina Anderson – whom he described as a “dirty wheure” (left that one in for you) he pithily observed: “Silly bitch was at the awards ceremony and I had to shake her hand. Dirty inbred Fenian wench shouldn’t have been out of the kitchen in the first place. Happy Hibernians day. Hopefully all the Taigs enjoy their parades. LOL, just kidding, hopefully they all drop dead.” Marc added a nice we smiley emoji. Because he’s that kind of guy.
Of a visit to a hospital he wrote” “There were five kids and we established that at least one was a Taig, one was a Pole and one had a tribe of gypsies at its bedside, so we were in good company.”
When these social media posts were resurrected after his election as a councillor for the Knockagh district in 2019, Marc did an Ian Paisley and apologised for having made them, saying he’s now older and wiser.
He told Sunday Life: “They do not represent my views today and I recognise they were wholly unacceptable. I apologise to the people offended by them and apologise generally for making them. I’ve just been elected as a councillor. I will represent everyone and seek to give leadership to build a shared future for the next generation in my locality. I oppose all forms of bigotry or racism. We share this land and we are all the same regardless of religion or skin colour. I will ask the people to judge me on my work going forward rather than ill-judged comments made when I was much younger.”
Fair enough, Marc. You asked to be judged on your work going forward from 2019. So consider yourself well and truly judged.
Charging into battle with a Facebook warrior
HOT as hell on Boucher Road on Sunday as Squinter moved from shop to shop, technically in search of a certain item of merchandise, but just as often in search of air conditioning.
He’s looking for a belt, if you’re interested – a soft belt. For a couple of reasons. 1) The belts he has are stiff leather and unsuited to warm-weather leisurewear. 2) He’s making progress on the pandemic poundage, but he’s not there yet.
After a half-hour or 40 minutes, he’s got what he needs and is on the way back to the car with his purchase when he realises there’s a River Island here which he hasn’t checked out. And truth to tell, the belt he’s bought has been a frustration purchase more than anything else. So he danders in for a look.
The small men’s accessories stand is next to the tills, and in seconds, with a curious mixture of annoyance and pleasure, he’s found just the belt he was looking for all along. And it’s much cheaper. Three times cheaper, in fact – if Squinter’s reading the sale price scrawled in marker on the ticket right. He also spots a quite fetching leather bracelet that he fancies will be just the thing to complete that summer-in-Miami leisure look.
While he’s processing these items, there’s a middle-aged woman behind him at the end till. She’s on her phone and she’s complaining loudly and bitterly to a friend or family member that she’s been refused a return on a pair of sunglasses because they’ve been brought back marked. So far, so standard.
Two members of staff soon arrive to talk to the woman on the phone, who hangs up. One of the two is clearly the more senior member of staff that the customer has demanded to speak to. The young woman explains patiently and politely that it is company policy not to give refunds on goods that are marked and the customer is becoming increasingly, shrilly unhappy.
It’s clear by this stage that the woman is not for giving in, for when her angry denunciations of staff and policy are seen to be making no headway, when her ever-more passionate protestations that the sunglasses have never been worn are clearly gaining no traction, she hits the global thermonuclear button.
She tells the staff that she has a “big Facebook following” and if this isn’t sorted to her satisfaction she’s going straight home to put her harrowing ordeal online for the world to see. Or, at least, her “big Facebook following”.
Squinter’s at the till now and he asks the young man behind the till to check that he’s read the new marker price right. He has. Happy days. He explains that he’s off to seek a refund on a belt he’s just bought and will return for this one. He pays for the bracelet and off he goes. The white noise of yer woman wanging on about people not having a clue about how to do their jobs and the merry hell she’s going to kick up on Facebook mercifully fades as he heads towards the brilliant square of sunshine that is the exit.
It’s a few minutes walk to the other gaff, where the refund process is pleasingly painless and quick, which means he’s back in River Island in ten minutes, tops. As Squinter heads towards the accessories rack and the tills, he winces as he hears the familiar whine of a woman explaining the power of her Facebook presence. This time she’s prattling on to a young man, who’s politely trying to interject with details of the River Island refund policy, with which Squinter is now intimately acquainted.
First time round, the woman just ground Squinter’s gears a bit. Now she’s got him making a silent F sound with his top teeth on his bottom lip.
The same young guy is at the same till. Squinter tells him he got his refund and he smiles, seems pleased. We exchange a few friendly words to the chainsaw soundtrack of Fiona Facebook. Squinter turns to leave and as he does so she returns to the theme of her online super-powers for – what? – the fifth time? Sixth? Seventh?
Then he just goes off on one. Just can’t help himself. Apologies for the language to anyone within earshot. He tells her to clear off to poxy Facebook instead of going on and on to young people about it. He tells her the staff are following policy not because they’ve got it in for her, but because they get in trouble if they don’t.
And the glasses aren’t Hugo Boss, ffs, they’re Hugo buckin’ Boucher. She blinks. Jerks back her head. She strides determinedly towards Squinter, thinks better of it and then stops. She wants to know what it’s got to do with him, as she’s clearly made such a good job of keeping her business to herself. She rakes Squinter slowly and mechanically with her eyes from head to toe, like a photocopier with a sheet of A4. “Away and get a pair of shorts that fit.”
This is an absolutely valid point with which Squinter has no argument. He’s wearing capacious cargo shorts that are closer to the knee than perhaps they sould be because he didn’t have a belt to go with them. It’s what has brought these two people together, in fact. Squinter decides not to return the serve and contents himself with asking if that’s all she’s got. It isn’t. She wiggles her index finger furiously up and down in front of her nose. “I can’t hear you through your wee mask,” she sneers.
Squinter should point out at this juncture that he has omitted to mention that she was maskless, but he has a strong suspicion that in the movie of this encounter that’s running in your head as you read this, you had her pictured without one anyway.
Squinter lets loose a final fruitily-worded volley of advice on respect for shop staff and the shop erupts in applause. (Not really. The place went quiet, actually. Never mind.)
A lethal combination, lockdown and heat. And if pain-in-the-arse customers have always been an occupational hazard for shop staff, there’s voluminous anecdotal evidence that they’ve been getting it harder of late. So try to be nice, eh? Even if you’re big on Facebook.