Men of no property

By Jude Collins (

Should the BBC be going to Specsavers? I was listening to BBC Radio Ulster’s ‘Good Morning Ulster’ (a lot of Ulsters in there) this morning and they were reporting on the rioting at Ardoyne shops last night. A group of people blocked the road in advance of the Orangemen coming back and parading through the area, and the PSNI moved in wearing full riot gear and dragged them clear. Rioting followed.

This morning, Karen Patterson had a senior police officer in the studio, who talked about the cost of the policing operation (#650,000) and said that what was needed was a ‘systemic solution’, whatever that is. Karen asked after the condition of a woman police officer hurt in the rioting. The senior police officer admitted that some civilians had been hurt, in particular a woman hit by an iron bar (i.e., the rioters hurt her, not the police). We had Gerry Kelly MLA on saying that ‘the parade is the issue’ and Nigel Dodds on saying rioting was never right, not now or ten or fifteen years ago. Both politicians denounced last night’s protestors.

What we didn’t have was a single interview with a single protestor. The TV cameras showed them with big signs reading ‘WE’RE RESIDENTS, NOT DISSIDENTS’ but no attempt was made to establish if this were true. No one spoke to them to find out why they saw fit to block the road, what they hoped to achieve, whether they thought they were damaging the community. We were told that among the protestors were members of eirigi. Why then was none of them asked questions? The last time I checked, eirigi was a legal political organisation. Come to that, why weren’t there live cameras down at the protest? That way, we could have seen for ourselves what the protestors and those behind them were doing and how the police responded, rather than being given a heavily-edited film tape.

We’re told repeatedly that these people are anti-social thugs, but it looks increasingly as though they’re something more. The job of the media is to seek out the truth and report it. If they aren’t getting the cameras down to show things as they happen and they aren’t seeking to hear the views of those involved in rioting, you begin to think they’re perhaps nervous of what they might see and hear. And correspondingly, what we might see and hear.

We had all this twenty years ago with the ludicrous broadcasting ban on Sinn Fein. Are we now going to have more of the same sort of thing, except this time it’s not the British government that’s muffling the media, it’s themselves.


The good people of Derry are whooping and hollering with delight this morning. Or at least some of them are: there are those who think competing for the UK City of Culture is a betrayal of their Irishness. If it is, it’s a betrayal that’s been going on in different forms for a long time. Check on the number of Catholic school principals in Derry - particularly females - who’ve reached for an MBE or an OBE when it’s been dangled in front of them. Or consider all the Irish boxers from a nationalist/Catholic background who’ve cheerfully fought for the British, British Empire, British Commonwealth titles down the years. The two Spider Kellys - father and son, both Derrymen - come to mind. Clones-man Barry McGuigan even managed to hop over the border so he could have the privilege of fighting for UK titles. If you reject the Derry bid on the grounds that it’s part of the UK City of Culture competition, logic demands that you reject what all those boxers - and school principals - were happy to do.

In the end, it’s about money. Some people see culture as important in its own right - I’m one of those myself. But there are others who only see it in pound signs, and that’s probably the majority of Derry citizens. So what will the spin-off be financially between now and 2013? An answer can maybe be found in the experience of Liverpool, which in 2008 was named the European (note that - not UK but EUROPEAN) City of Culture.

In 2006, the unemployment rate in Liverpool was 7.1%. Two years later, the city was named European City of Culture. In 2009, 10% of the workforce was unemployed. So even after the European City of Culture title has had plenty of time to make its impact felt, the unemployment rate (always a good indicator of prosperity or its absence) went up some three per cent.

Derry’s not Liverpool or Finchley either, but the Merseyside experience should put a brake on the euphoric projections for the Foyleside city in 2013. Let’s hope that champagne wasn’t too expensive.

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