keresaspa: (Starry Plough)
Immediately before the election we had a statement in which the loyalist paramilitaries endorsed the DUP and now we are to be governed by a junta consisting of the Tories and these paramilitary-endorsed fascists with, worse yet, the UK about to leave the European Union and so all checks and balances on this radical right-wing rabble about to be removed. I knew this election was going to be painful but Jesus actual Christ. Happy now leave voters, you complete and absolute bastards?! If the reaction of the so-called "Republican Movement" to the British government openly realigning itself with sectarian paramilitaries is anything but any and every means of opposition then blood will be on their traitorous, collaborationist hands as much as any UVF or UFF death squad.

I'll attempt to console myself with the thought that this fragile alliance with a micro-majority is unlikely to last very long and that the hateful Theresa May is on borrowed time but right now I am about as disgusted as I've ever been.

But deep in the heart of Ireland has sunk the sense of the degradation wrought upon its people – our lost brothers and sisters – so deep and humiliating that no agency less potent than the red tide of war on Irish soil will ever be able to enable the Irish race to recover its self-respect, or establish its national dignity in the face of a world horrified and scandalised by what must seem to them our national apostasy.


James Connolly, Notes on the Front (1916)
keresaspa: (Cartman)
For several years since his shady, drug-related death in 2000 UDA killer Stephen "Top Gun" McKeag has been commemorated by various murals in the Lower Shankill area that was formerly his home. Rather than give you the full details of his sordid life I'll just point you in the direction of his Wikipedia article which is in this case both reliable and readable, a true classic of the website (yes, I did write the vast majority of it).

A recent bout of redevelopment saw the most recent version removed and a sigh of relief breathed by the relatives of the victims of one of the most prolific sectarian killers of the later years of the Troubles. However a couple of weeks ago a new version went up in the same vicinity (albeit not the exact location) leading to an outcry as well as the inevitable Housing Executive response of "we've no immediate plans to remove it". Well, the UDA's backs are up since Boreland and the Exec have never been the bravest of agencies at the best of times.

Leaving aside any outrage, the mural itself is one of those photo-based, screen-printed efforts that have become the norm on the Shankill in recent years where the sudden surge of ultra-nationalism that followed the horrendous flag protests and culminated in the loyalist support for the extreme right "leave" option at the last referendum (despite the EU having effectively been propping Northern Ireland up since the economic collapse, but hey - foreigners) has apparently killed off any notion of murals as an art form. Be that as it may, this is the result of their efforts:



Just take a moment to drink that in and realise that that is on the side of somebody's house, twenty odd feet high for the whole world to see. I didn't know McKeag personally (not one of the biggest regrets of my life, I must confess) but I've seen the odd picture and I'm pretty sure he had a complete head throughout his life. It does rather beg the question as to why, in that case, his photo-mural tribute has a head that stops immediately above the eyes with a little beret plonked on top, presumably to stop the world seeing his exposed, pulsating brain matter. I mean, was it really that big a rush job that the designer couldn't take a little time to actually make it look vaguely realistic? Or did they accidentally hire a Fenian who decided to have a bit of fun with it? Whatever the rights and wrongs of commemorating a piece of scum like McKeag if you're going to do it at least do it right. Whatever that is supposed to be it is an absolute laughing stock and frankly the UDA themselves, never mind the Housing Executive, should be removing that with their faces beetroot-red whilst doing so. He may have been "Top Gun" but my breath was certainly taken away by that travesty.
keresaspa: (Nina looking a tad pertubed)
Back at the tail-end of 2013 I briefly touched on the UDA internal feud in north Belfast but at that point it hadn't really advanced too far beyond "aye, yer ma" and "i'll knack yer ballix in". But on Sunday night shit just got real as veteran racketeer and former UDA brigadier John "Bonzer" Boreland got whacked by one of his own. By my reckoning he is the first loyalist to be killed by his own since the UVF bumped off Bobby Moffet outside the Ballygomartin Tesco (where I had been a few hours earlier) in 2010 and the first UDA man to be killed in an internal dispute since former East Belfast brigadier was lured to his death in 2005 by a gang that apparently included not only several former friends but even his ex-boyfriend. Even in death Doris Day had to be over the top. Either way it could lead to a spell of fun and games involving loyalist paramilitaries killing each other at a level not seen since the days when Johnny Adair was looking a one-man war with the UVF.

So, just who was Boreland? Well his Wikipedia page summarises the main points pretty well (it should do - I wrote about 95% of it and I'm so good at Wikipedia that even the South Side Advertiser has taken to plagiarising me). It should be added that the buzz on the street was Boreland and Shoukri had effectively re-established a puppet regime in the North Belfast Brigade, installing some unidentified loser who had made his name at those moronic flag protests around the same time as this all began. Said loser is apparently now in Scotland having made enemies of both the notorious Mount Vernon UVF* (who have been flexing their muscles of late) and Shankill-based veteran UVF top dog (and long-term British agent) John "Bunter" Graham. I'm sure it's entirely coincidental that after his faction made such powerful enemies Bonzer is now a goner. And pigs will fly.

Unlike some loyalists killed by their own (the aforementioned Jim Gray springs readily to mind) Boreland had friends as well as enemies. It seems unlikely that those friends will just shrug their shoulders at this and a lack of retaliation seems at best unlikely. It may be an isolated incident but the demand for some comeback is bound to be loud and these things have a nasty habit of spiralling once they begin. "Interesting" times ahead for the residents of Ballysillan, Tigers Bay and the Shore Road it seems. I may have to give Seaview a miss for a while.

* During their heyday of violence and drug dealing the Mount Vernon UVF were led by the malevolent Mark Haddock. And, you guessed it, he was a British agent too. Still don't believe the Troubles was being directed from Westminster?
keresaspa: (Starry Plough)
In the latest revelation to cast further light on just how dirty the so-called Troubles really were it now seems that the British security forces were forewarned about the 1993 Shankill bombing by a prominent Provo tout but decided to do sod all about it. Another one for the list then, although a rare example of an incident where the victims were those declaring their loyalty to the crown, a loyalty that once again is demonstrated to be one way.

With the proliferation of informers at the top level of the paramilitaries (seriously, there was a time in the 1980s when the heads of the UVF, UFF and IRA were all in the pockets of the security forces) and the realisation that so much of what went on was known in advance to the powers that be it becomes increasingly clear that, far from being the great war of liberation/defence that it was sold to young republicans and loyalists as, it was yet another example of the good old divide-and-rule tactic that has been the British Empire's stock in trade for centuries. How many hundreds, thousands even, died with the foreknowledge of a state that made no attempt whatsoever to save those lives? The Stevens Inquiries may have revealed a fraction of the collusion that went on between the UDA and the British but it was the tip of the iceberg, and a process hamstrung from the start by being instigated by the same British state that was involved in the dodgy deals. Like the supposed investigations into Westminster paedophile rings, can we really expect the establishment to condemn itself? Really the more you hear about the Troubles the gloomier it becomes - all that bloodshed for what? So as a tout can get big money for himself and his cronies by sitting in government, toasting his queen and doing the bidding of the people that have been paying him for decades.

A dirty war, dirtier than we could ever imagine, with communities on both sides put to the rack for the supposed forces of order to pursue their own twisted agenda. It's no wonder that any deal on "legacy" has been consistently tossed out as every man-jack of them is up to their necks in filth with their hands soaked in blood. Meanwhile Sinn Fein will continue to use the names of Bobby Sands and the others during their forthcoming election campaign to the collaborationist institution up at Stormont and the useful idiots will tramp out and put them back in to continue cosying up to the same state that oversaw the butchering their relatives. By fuck, this place is disgusting.
keresaspa: (Cassidy says...)
I was probably about six years of age when I decided that I might start supporting Glasgow Celtic. As decisions went it was hardly the most radical one I ever made. In Northern Ireland the general rule is if you're a Taig you support Celtic, if you're a Prod you support Rangers. Both sides have their naysayers - be they those not interested in football, those not interested in Scottish football or those hardy few that support another Scottish club - and on both sides you get the very odd wind-up merchant who decides to support the opposite team as a piss-take (possibly the most notorious example being Glen Branagh, a member of the UDA's youth wing the UYM who died in rioting and was buried in a Celtic top). Nonetheless it tends to be what you would expect and so I fell into line as a youth, declaring myself a Celtic die-hard.

Down the years my fire began to dampen as I prioritised West Bromwich Albion, began equally looking for the results of Inverness Caledonian Thistle in the Scottish league, found myself rather seduced by Hearts after attending their match to the point that I wouldn't call myself a Celtic supporter at all. Still, I did have a good few years in which I would and yet in that time I never once visited the ground for a match (or indeed, any reason). Of course I saw a version of Celtic play Cliftonville two summers back but an actual visit to Parkhead? No.

Well strike a light as, despite no longer considering myself a supporter, it seems I'm going to go there after all. Later this month I'll be taking a post-birthday break in Edinburgh and it was my intention to take in a match whilst there. Alas and alack for the Hearts and Hibernian are both playing away that week, meaning a non-league tie between Edinburgh University and Hawick Royal Albert was to be my lot. "So be it" I thought, albeit considering it a tad tuppence-ha'penny until I chanced upon the website of Celtic, the opponents of Hearts on the Wednesday night. Given the disillusionment amongst Celtic support these days and the fact that it's only the League Cup tickets galore were to be had and so I decided to snap one up.

And there you have it. After years of being down in the mouth about never getting to go to Celtic I am to finally end up there long after I stopped caring. Still, I always like to get a match in when I'm away and that will be as good as any and I had intended to visit Glasgow for a day anyway. So, good show overall and a rare example of getting what one wants long after one has stopped wanting it. It's a funny old game, innit?
keresaspa: (Salvador Allende)
Given how the mass media has lined up against it, the very desire for self-determination has been consistently likened to the genocide of six million people and the fact that they're a queer bunch who never vote Tory but nevertheless like to suffer under them every few years I doubt very much that Scotland will be taking her place amongst the states of the world next month. But just in case something earth-shattering does happen on the day before my birthday and Scotland does take on partial dominion status (which, as I previously expounded upon, is all Sandy Salmond is offering) it does rather raise the question of what impact it will have on Northern Ireland.

Just as Sinn Fein's rhetoric in recent years has become a lot more identitaire in nature, so too that of unionism and loyalism has for some time sought to underline their own small-n nationalist credentials by pretending that they constitute an ethnie. Be it through the means of the Ulster-Scots "language" (a combination of dialect, construct and fantasy that lies somewhere between Scouse, Volapük and Klingon in the credibility stakes) or Ian Adamson's "Cruthin" fantasies the idea has been to state that the Protestants in Northern Ireland are an ethnic group and that said ethnic group is virtually identical with the Scots. Leaving aside how ludicrous this notion is (the Protestants in Northern Ireland are about as pure blooded as the Catholics and we're all a big ethnic muddle of each other and several other groups of interlopers, like it or not) it does mean that a big part of the identity is tied to Scotland. Go into any loyalist area, or mixed area where the Catholics are too chicken shit to resist as pictured, and you'll see the saltire everywhere but nowhere will you see the Cross of St. George. Beyond the very top levels of the Unionist establishment England and the English aren't very popular here on any side and, whilst it might be very easy to construct a pro-UK agenda based on keeping tight with our brothers in Scotland, it will be a lot harder to do so based on keeping tight with our distant cousins in England. Happen there will be attempts to play up the English dimension in the plantations but surely even the loyalists wouldn't be gullible enough to swallow that over night.

The Cruthin and Ulster Scots has very occasionally been utilised by those who espoused the minority pro-independence view and I know both Doctor Doctor Kenny McClinton and the Reverend Clifford Peeples (both very occasional readers round these parts - hai guise) used those arguments to support it. It could well prove that were Scotland to go its own way loyalism might be forced to re-evaluate its position and instead call for some of the same, resurrecting the ideas that elements within the UDA dabbled with in the 70s and 80s. Certainly I've yet to hear Salmond suggest that he wants to take this place with him (although I would put nothing past him) so a rethought of position by some might well have to follow. Inevitably there will be those die-hards who never relent but an independent Scotland could potentially divide the unionist-loyalist side to such an extent that this place ends up having three sides, with the republican side the largest by default.

All pointless speculation of course, given that the Scots seem poised to turn down this opportunity (and let me hear one Scot moan about poor treatment from Westminster in the future as it will be your own faults) but were the miracle to happen the knock-on effects for this place could be wide-ranging. The thought of an independent "Ulster" under the dictatorship of former Ulster nationalist Willie Frazer is just too dire to contemplate!

Rebel songs

Jul. 7th, 2014 08:36 pm
keresaspa: (Maurice Bishop)
One story that did catch my eye during my barely noticed extended absence was the minor fuss locally over the Ku Klux Klan. For those unfamiliar, Island Street is a back street off a back street off the lower Newtownards Road. Made up of 80s style redeveloped Housing Executive houses, it is one of the more soul-destroying parts of east Belfast, saying something given what a bigoted little dump that side of town is. The walls proclaim allegiance to the UDA although, as is the case throughout the east, it is the UVF that largely holds sway with the UDA only existing with their permission and fulfilling little role beyond dealing drugs.

For years 81 Island Street has been a particular carbuncle in the gloom. With a front door festooned with racist and Islamophobic stickers, not to mention a bunch of stuff about Rangers, a Confederate flag flying on a pole and a window filled with KKK memorabilia, as well as UDA flags, it stands as a beacon of hatred. Action taken to address this? None. In an area of low-grade housing, towards which immigrants are likely to gravitate, a public display of racial hatred and xenophobia has for years been ignored. So recently a KKK flag went on a nearby lamppost and a fuss was kicked up but Belfast's own Braunes Haus continues happily in a part of the town already notorious for its racism. The flag was subsequently taken down "following discussions" (rather than torn down with its owner prosecuted under the Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006) but when I passed that way today it had been replaced by a pair of Southern crosses. Well, that's much better as the flag of a racist state is a lot less offensive than the flag of a racist organisation.

Radio Ulster's decision to interview the local KKK boss-cocky is a dodgy one as it gives him much more importance than he deserves (although is very much in keeping with the ever rightwards drift of the BBC as whole). Given that we have a strongly anti-Catholic organisation in which members are expected to dress like prats and take part in bizarre rites in the Orange Order then it hardly seems surprising that the KKK could come here (although to be fair a few token Africans have found their way into the Orange Order) but it's also probably the main reason that they are an irrelevance. Extreme right organisations have found their openings within loyalism locally but they have never fully taken off nor are they likely to unless the loyalist paramilitaries ever come out unequivocally against racism and start punishing the racists in their own community. However the fuss over the flying of the flag is a little like suddenly becoming appalled about the Cerne Abbas Giant's tumescence - it's been that way years and nobody has batted an eyelid. To think that they're actually sinking money into promoting east Belfast as a tourist destination. God help any tourist who goes over that way and God help even more any poor immigrant who gets housed in Island Street. What an absolute shithole this place really is sometimes.
keresaspa: (Trotsky)
Whilst there are those amongst us who crave above the new, the different and the strange, many of us are, to varying degrees, creatures of habit. For some of you out there a week in which egg and chips is not consumed on a Tuesday evening is a week you would rather not live, a frightening prospect that brings a shudder even at the very thought. Routine is for the most part an enemy but there are inevitably occurrences when I too feel the name to conform to a sort of pattern.

Saturday afternoon is, of course, one such time as that is the time I must be at a football match regardless of the teams in action. A spell of diluvian rain today ensured that Donegal Celtic's intended match against Ballyclare Comrades was ixnayed but, undaunted, I spent the day at Seaview watching a drab affair in which Newington YC lost by the single goal to Portstewart. A crowd of around twenty was all the match could garner, making Seaview an eerier experience than normal (and next time I bemoan the poor crowds at DC I'll remember this match), although I spent it in the company of a slightly bonkers old West Bromwich Albion fan who had got a boat over to Belfast on the off-chance of attending any live match. I doff my hat to such hardcore anorak-ism.

Saturday may be my day for football but for others routine on a Saturday means only one thing - standing outside the City Hall bleating about a flag no longer being a permanent fixture on the building. Yes, that's right after nearly a year and two months they are still gathering outside the City Hall griping about that bloody flag with the usual line-up of spides, the elderly, children and people not from Belfast (just what does it matter to "Loyalist Lisburn" is Belfast City Council doesn't fly a flag?).

With regards to all of this crap about flags and Orange marches Martin McGuinne$$ made a valid comment recently (well, there's a first time for everything) suggesting a grand coalition for bigotry between the Orange Order, the UVF and their PUP political arm being behind all this. Were I Curly I would have added the West Belfast Ulster Political Research Group and their associated UDA dissidents who have been prominent up at Twaddell Avenue, but otherwise the point is a valid one. The Regressive Unionists, and the increasingly Strasserite weltanschauung they have adopted under the führung of Billy Hutchinson, have their eyes on doing something at the council elections and, given that their previous flirtations with more normal social democracy got them nowhere, what better way to make the breakthrough than by marrying a message of being a persecuted underclass to one of ultra-nationalism, whilst seeking a direct alliance with the main organisation of right-wing middle-class backlash.

David McKittrick has characterised the work of the Loyalist Association of Workers and the Ulster Workers Council as a form of "sectarian socialism" and it was a policy followed to an extent by the UDA's lead spokesman in the '70s Sammy Smyth, a man who combined agitation on behalf of the Protestant working class with calls for ethnic cleansing and extreme anti-Catholic conspiracy theories and whose pronouncements became so extreme that in the end he was given a punishment beating and expelled from the UDA. It's along this path that the Regressives are now going, offering a vague version of socialism for one community whilst seeking to blame other working class people for their ills rather than capitalism. Socialism that purposefully seeks to divide the working classes and instead looks to class enemies as its natural allies? That's Strasserism in my book and no mistake. And I'm not even touching on their willingness to co-operate closely with dyed-in-the-wool right-extremists like Jim Dowson and Willie Frazer in their flag protests when I say that.

Their alliance with sections of the unionist establishment is inevitable and inevitably it will get them nowhere as they will be used by the Orange Order until they get tired of them, just as the LAW and UWC were by the Ian Paisley and William Craig. By continuing in their usual role as running dogs for the unionists, the Regressives have blown any hope of effecting change and indeed it leaves one with little conclusion to draw other than the fact the, far from wanting anything to change, Hutchinson just wants to get his and a few of his mates snouts in the trough alongside the rest of them. Given that he happily stands by whilst the UVF he represents peddles drugs and inflicts terror on the loyalist communities he claims to speak for then I can't see what else he has in mind. I'm sure plenty will be fooled and Hutchinson will get his wishes and this place will once again back bigotry and put a few more horse pedlars on the councils but let's not expect anything to improve by enshrining a divided proletariat. Same old Northern Ireland, forever and ever, Amen.
keresaspa: (Cassidy says...)
So, after all the fuss we've had with the UVF recently it now appears that the UDA is about to stagger back into life, although at least they will be getting on each other's cases rather than the Fenians. It has been all action on my "beloved" Shankill Road recently and it all stems from the UDA and its machinations. Now if you're sitting comfortably I'll begin (and bear with me on this one as it all gets a bit complicated and the dramatis personæ is rather extensive).

Jackie Coulter was a member of the West Belfast Brigade of the UDA/UFF (they're the same thing but the UDA was, shamefully, a legal organisation under British law until 1992 so it needed another name to allow it to kill with impunity), serving as commander of the C3A Commandos, part of the Brigade's C Company, which serves the lower Shankill area. In the 1990s C Company, then the whole Brigade, came under the leadership of Johnny Adair, with C Company becoming notorious for the volume of sectarian killings undertaken by its two top hitmen Gary "Smickers" Smyth and Stephen "Top Gun" McKeag. Top Gun however was not popular with many of his fellows and eventually fell foul of Adair. Top Gun was for a time doinking Coulter's daughter Tracey but, like many men of violence, domestic abuse was also part of his stock in trade and when Tracey told her father about this he in turn spoke to Adair who arranged a punishment beating for the by-then-sidelined McKeag. The heroic Johnny was soon on the firm with Tracey Coulter himself, although she was one of many to be getting wee Johnny's length at the time.

Adair was close to the LVF, a militant splinter-group of the UVF, and as such he joined them in feuding with the UVF. As part of this feud Jackie Coulter was shot and killed by the UVF along with Bobby Mahood, supposedly in a case of mistaken identity when a passing UVF gunman thought that Bobby was actually his brother, LVF kingpin Jackie Mahood, and shot up the car on the off-chance. This feud subsequently petered out as Adair was returned to prison but following his release he began a feud with the rest of the UDA in an attempt to gain control of the entire organisation. This culminated in Adair arranging for South East Antrim Brigade boss, and neo-Nazi supporter, John Gregg to be killed, leading in turn to Adair and his supporters being ran out of Belfast by the rest of the organisation.

Just before Adair's downfall he had split with a number of his old comrades, not least Mo Courtney, widely reported as a British agent and one of the gunmen for the murder of Pat Finucane. As a result Courtney was able to remain on the Shankill and continue to be a big wheel in the post-Adair UDA, although his time as a bigwig was interrupted by a spell at Her Majesty's pleasure for his part in killing former Adair prodigy Alan McCullough.

Courtney was released from prison and returned to the Shankill and pretty soon graffiti attacking Tracey Coulter began to appear in the lower Shankill. Before long however Courtney himself was attacking Coulter and he faces sentencing for that in the new year. Unperturbed, Courtney's goons moved against the now hated Coulter a few days ago by hosting a Belfast barbecue at her Shankill des res. In a show of Coulter's bravery/idiotic stubbornness (delete as applicable) she has vowed to remain in situ, despite the long-running (and at times rather indecent) graffiti campaign being ramped up but it hasn't ended there.

Jackie McDonald, the head of the South Belfast Brigade and effective capo di tutti capi of the wombles, has been working to distance the UDA from obvious rackets as criminality tends to interfere with his myriad government-funded schemes and as such he, along with his stooges in East and North Belfast, have reacted to the developments with disapproving clucks. Certain members of the North Belfast Brigade had been close to the increasingly loose cannon western leadership, which also continues to operate a whole slew of rackets, and when they were recently expelled they were welcomed into the West Belfast Brigade with open arms. I happened to find myself on the Shore Road last evening and passed some daubings against local brigadier John Bunting to which I paid little attention (pictured right). However it now seems the expelled members were behind these and a rerun of the 2002-3 feud between West Belfast and the rest may be in the offing.

I suppose it's all inevitable in a way. The UDA, with its large and non-selective membership, has always been a volatile proposition at the best of times and it has struggled to find a role in post-ceasefire life. Its Ulster Democratic Party political wing was a victim of the 2002-3 silliness and there has been obvious tension between the increasingly legit McDonald (who, despite his current actions, has a long history as a racketeer) and other leaders who have been less adept at chousing grant after grant out of the government. So far it all seems to be mostly playground stuff but if it continues to escalate we could be looking at yet another full-blown UDA feud, just like in the good old days. Either way, the continuing nonsense that the loyalist paramilitaries are on ceasefire is once again exposed for the canard that it is. I expect there to be little or no repercussions from this (and the prominence of the UDA-linked West Belfast Ulster Political Research Group in the Twaddell Avenue protests cannot go unnoticed) because it suits the powers that be to pretend everything is hunky-dory here but, as Tom so rightly stated, "don't you believe it".
keresaspa: (Julius Nyerere)
When did people (in this part of the world at least) start dressing their houses for Hallowe'en? The Christmas tack has been going on for most, if not all of my life - Johnny Adair and his chief hitman Stephen "Top Gun" McKeag notoriously had an annual competition to outdo each other with the tacky decorations on their Shankill pads - but now I see several houses festooned in witches, skeletons and "beware of ghosts" signs to draw attention to the fact that that most pointless of dates in the calendar is a few weeks away. I can recall some houses putting up the odd little thing on the night itself in the past but some of these have been up for several weeks and it has become an epidemic recently. Today's journey took me through west Belfast and out to the Twinbrook estate in Dunmurry for the match (Iveagh United 5 Bryansburn Rangers 2 with a massive delay due to a broken ankle for one of the Bryansburn lads in case you were interested, which you weren't) and for the entire journey the Hallowe'en bedecked houses were the most prominent feature in the otherwise unremarkable views. The Americanisation of culture is often a shame but, along with the practice of inserting the word "like" in the middle of a sentence (as opposed to at the end of a sentence, a fine old Belfast tradition like), I think the growth of Hallowe'en, with its pointless loud noises, its demands of money with threats of violence and the increase in annoying drunk people, is one of my least favourite aspects of it and the fact that it has now joined Christmas as a whole season devoted to worshipping at the shrine of consumerism is really rather depressing. What's the All Saints Eve equivalent of "bah, humbug"?
keresaspa: (Cookie Kwan)
I believe, gentle reader (whomever you are), that I have mentioned the Highfield estate before. But for those who weren't present or who share my strange obsession with the sectarian geography of Belfast I shall briefly run through it again. Highfield is a loyalist housing estate lying beyond the Shankill Road near the foot of Black Mountain, bordered on the north by the Ballygomartin Road, the south by the Springfield Road, the east by the West Circular Road and the west by the Springmartin Road. Generally a UDA stronghold, it is one of the most deprived areas of Belfast with some of the worst housing stock in the city. Its entire west side is crushed up against equally low grade republican areas such as New Barnsley and Ballymurphy and the area was the site of some notorious inter-paramilitary gun battles in the early 1970's. Even now it gives off something of an unwelcoming vibe with strangers regarded suspiciously and for a Fenian like myself passing through the Highfield estate always gives one a slight nervous thrill.

But a lack of options forced my hand. Well, I could have taken a quick stroll over to Daddy Winkers Lane and watched the mighty Orangefield Old Boys in action and I did toy briefly with a run out to Bangor to watch the match there. There was also the Irish Cup semi-final between Cliftonville and Crusaders at the Oval but I suspected (wrongly as it proved) that in the Ulster People's Forum stronghold that is the lower Newtownards Road a repeat performances of the protests that forced the abandonment of the same fixture at Seaview might be in the offing. So with those options shitcanned all that was left was Paisley Park Highfield estate to watch the erstwhile West Belfast Rangers (Albert Foundry as they are now called) in action against the famous Ardglass.

Paisley Park (which may or not be named after Ian Paisley, I really don't know) is better known as a bowling club but includes a few football pitches. Although the mercury touched ten degrees Celsius today the high, open, windswept location meant that as my made my way to Paisley the following sight greeted me:



I did take the thicko option of Single Award Science at GCSE so I claim no expertise in these matters but I was taught that water freezes at oh degrees so how the hell can snow exist at ten above nowt? Mind-boggling.

But I digress. I arrived at Paisley Park at ten minutes to two (two o'clock kick-off) and was surprised to be charged three quid for entry. Games at this level tend to be gratis but so be it. I was even more surprised to find that with a mere ten minutes to go I was the only paying customer there. Yup, just me. Given how full of their own self-importance Shankill roaders are (a trait they share with Falls roaders) and the fact that local favourites Linfield had no match today I expected a decent crowd to turn out but not a bit of it. I counted nine paying customers in total, augmented by about another twelve or so comps who came in late for a bumper crowd that was lucky to break twenty people.

As to the match itself it was frankly a bit of a mismatch. Although other clubs have games in hand Albert Foundry currently sit on top of the Northern Amateur League Premier Division (fourth tier overall) with Ardglass anonymous in mid-table. I don't claim to know much about this league but if this game is anything to go by there must be quite a gap between the top sides and the rest as Foundry were grinding Ardglass like so much horse meat from the word go. That they went in at half-time only 1-0 up was due to Foundry's inability to score rather than anything on the part of Ardglass. It would have seemed a really long journey home for their travelling support had it not been for the fact that they appeared to have no supporters. Fourth tier don't forget. The attitudes to health and diet are a little different at this level though. Every member of the Foundry coaching staff had a feg on at one point, including one old stager who was eating them, and when an Ardglass player was substituted off injured he sparked a tab on the touchline a few minutes after coming off.

During the second half there appeared to be a rather large fire raging behind the ground with smoke billowing but in fact it may just have been Foundry on fire as they turned the screws on a woeful Ardglass side. Four goals were scored to add to the one they already had, including two near the end that appeared to be scored within a minute of each other. To be honest they probably could have had a three or four more as this was an absolute hiding from start to finish.

It's difficult to assess Albert Foundry. On the pitch they are every inch a Championship 2 club in waiting and they would more than hold in their own in that division playing to the standards they did today. Their ground wasn't the ritz, although if Brantwood maintained senior status with their pit and Sport & Leisure Swifts do with their shoebox then this might just be good enough. The views are quite something as well as there are few places in the city where you can see the Holy Cross church on Crumlin Road, the shipyard and the City Hospital with just a slight turn of the head. Their only stand could probably stand to be a little larger and they would need to rip off the crumbling wooden slats and replace them with proper plastic seats but I could see Paisley Park as a third level ground without too much effort being needed. The big problem however would be the crowds, which are clearly woeful. This was a fine day for football and there is a big slice of population, all high on their own identity, for them to draw on but with Linfield not playing they still failed to break double figures on the gate as far as I could see. A lot of clubs in Northern Ireland fail to engage properly with their local communities in order to attract support (not least Donegal Celtic, whose PR is non-existent, a fact reflected in their own terrible crowds) but Albert Foundry are missing out badly as they could be drawing in decent crowds if they got their arses in gear. It remains to be seen if they will win the league and even if they do the system for promotion to the Irish League is arcane in its complexity but the raw materials are there. Cliftonville and Crusaders have shown what community engagement can do as they both attract bumper crowds now and whilst Albert Foundry aren't near that level yet they could do worse than looking to their northern neighbours for pointers in attracting those from the Greater Shankill who have an interest in the game but don't care for Linfield, can't afford the prices at Windsor Park, can't find transport to Blues games or just can't be arsed going. If they manage that they could thrive a couple of levels above their current position but if not they'll continue busting a gut in front of the sort of "crowds" that most of us could comfortably squeeze into our parlours.
keresaspa: (Karl Marx laughing)
I once used this little forum of mine to suggest that Jim Allister's baby, the Traditional Unionist Voice, could be considered a fascist party. I was being flippant of course as it is at best a High Tory throwback and at worst an extreme right vanity project but either way it falls some distance short of fascism. Recently however I have got to thinking about how the current flag protest movement and its Ulster People's Forum directors relate to fascism and that proves to be a little less cut and dried.

As the establishment unionism and loyalism have always tended towards the right but whether they have ever produced true fascism (and I'm ignoring any nonsensical attempt to use the term fascism as a synonym for racism, dictatorship or "I don't like it") is highly debatable. If we assume fascism should be ultra-nationalist, radically populist, seek to build a mass movement and be desirous of palingenesis or a complete rebirth of society, then the closest fit seems to be the Ulster Vanguard. Of course when they were formed they were simply conservatives adopting the trappings of militarism and when William Craig had his brain fart and decided that his preferred solution was power-sharing with the SDLP they suddenly became the most moderate of the radical unionist parties (and forget the United Ulster Unionist Party splinter group, who were little more than a TUV forerunner) but during the period when they advocated the establishment of a hard-line independent "Ulster" and were seemingly prepared to advocate violence against any opposition they came as close to fascism as this place ever has seen.

But if we turn to the current movement it is clear that some, if not all, elements of fascism can be identified. The flag protest movement are possibly the most populist movement to emerge since partition and their rhetoric is increasingly been couched in a highly populist rejection of the existing politicians. Equally a rejection of liberal democracy, seen by the likes of Gentile and Payne (although less so myself, I must admit) as central to fascism, can be detected from the very basis of the initial protests given that the flag was removed from the City Hall due to a democratic vote and the rejection of that decision clearly represents a rejection of that process. Nationalism goes without saying. The assertion of group rights, the prominence of the flag, the insistence that some are members of the "group" (Ulster Protestants) and that there are "the other" who are without the group and therefore enemies are pretty much textbook examples of ultra-nationalism and really need no more discussion. Similarly the mass movement idea is self evident as the flag protests have been the ultimate social movement, seeking to get as many numbers as possible onto the streets and relying on the sheer force of human bodies for intimidation. Indeed involvement has been as important, if not more so, than ideology at levels not seen since the formation of the UDA or the Ulster Workers' Council strike.

Palingenesis is so far largely absent from official policy, such as it is, although at lower levels the virulent strains of anti-Catholicism that run through the membership hint at a desire for a Protestant state. In typical post-modern fashion, this has manifested itself in social network groups attached to the protests advocating the eradication of Catholics. Their apparently preferred constitutional arragnement of direct rule is a fairly non-radical solution although it remains to be seen whether or not this is Willie Frazer's personal opinion or that of the wider movement whilst a desire for a return to a mythical golden age can in itself be seen as palingenetic. The Italian Social Movement, one of the few post-war groups to ever self-identify as fascist and achieve mainstream levels of support, talked of nostalgia dell'avvenire in this context, a backwards look to the future.

Willie Frazer's former involvement in the Ulster Independence Movement, a group whose Ulster Patriot journal frequently featured the thoughts of Romanian fascist leader Codreanu (a favourite of former National Front organiser and UIM big cheese David Kerr), hints at past associations with a group that was at least tolerant of fascism and, whilst it is rather guilt by association, Frazer's prominent role in proceedings suggests that at least the Ulster People's Forum would not immediately recoil at the ideology. A case can be made for the UIM as a fascist movement in the manner of the Nick Griffin wing of the National Front and the International Third Position but I'll not go down that avenue here and now as it is not strictly relevant.

So far the protests have gone through two stages. The first was as a response to a leafleting campaign by the DUP aimed at whipping up opposition to the Alliance as part of their wider attempts to regain control of their bulwark East Belfast seat from that party for Peter Robinson. In this stage it was an old case of an arch conservative establishment figure trying to use latent extreme right sentiments to further their own ends. From Franz von Papen's disastrous attempts to use the Nazi Party to further his own career all the way down to David Cameron mobilising anti-European xenophobia in an attempt to extricate himself from an uncomfortable coalition that is as old as the hills. Somewhere along the line however the DUP lost control of the protests and they entered a new phase, one of bitter resentment, ethnic nationalism and populist right wing politics in which the initial stated aim of returning a piece of cloth to a building has been confused with the introduction of vague demands for social reform and explicit attacks on the minority community, effectively giving birth to an extreme right, but ideologically weak, protest movement whose demands seem increasingly diffuse and uncertain. Conspiracy theories abound with "big lie" propaganda helping to fuel bigotry by arguing that Catholics get all the good things despite the figures still showing unemployment as higher among the Catholic community than the Protestant community. When proletarian resentment, driven by the decline of the heavy industries that the Protestant working classes traditionally dominated, gets turned on an internal out group rather than the system itself we are clearly in right-wing extremism territory.

Politically they have been so far characterised by an immaturity that is perhaps inevitable given that of the leaders only Frazer has any political background and even that has been very much on the fringes. One need only look at the bizarre events of last week when Jamie Bryson announced that the Ulster People's Forum had severed their ties with Frazer only for them to announce a united front later that same day. Had there been the slightest bit of political maturity Fraser and Bryson would surely have conducted their tiff in private. On a wider level however the absence of this maturity has left them without any real ideology. In some ways many of their followers are comparable to the impoverished people who followed the Chartists in the nineteenth century, feeling that in their own mind there was an agenda for social reform even when the stated aims were clearly solely related to the organisation of government. The flag protest and Ulster People's Forum are as yet not a fascist movement as they haven't reached that stage yet and are still stuck in the wider extreme right mode of resentment and bitterness. It's highly possible that they might never exit that mode and indeed their overall basis is weak and conditional for, were there to be a capitulation and the flag was returned tomorrow, it seems likely that Fraser and Bryson would disappear into the background and the general loyalist population would return to their default position of blindly following the major unionist parties. Equally attempts by the Progressive Unionist Party to cash in on the protests by publicly taking a much more hard-line stance than usual seem unlikely to work as Bryson has shown no desire to become a member and Fraser has old associations with the UVF's bitter enemies in the LVF.

If Bryson and Fraser decide to go the whole hog and build a new mass loyalist party from what they have now Northern Ireland might well find itself with its first indigenous truly fascist movement a good 90 or so years after everywhere else but we aren't there yet (and even if we end up there, there are no guarantees it would excite any interest). Instead we have an extreme right protest movement full of people who are very angry about a lot of things, aren't sure just who to blame and so turn their anger on the people in their midst whom they define as being different to them. Not so much a local version of the Fasci Italiani di Combattimento as a local version of the English Defence League then.
keresaspa: (James Connolly)
No match this weekend as all Saturday football in Belfast was cancelled because a bunch of fascists who openly broke the law were "punished" by getting their own way as usual. Great response from the republicans, both mainstream and dissident too, as the fascists were allowed to own the streets as usual. Meanwhile the media is hailing it a great success and saying that it passed off peacefully even though once again the bootboy flute bands once again played their hate-filled dirges as the passed St Patrick's. Still there's no punishment for them so why bother getting worked up about it? If this is the shared future that they keep trumpeting frankly I would sooner be in Soviet Russia as this is the same old, bigoted one-sided crap that we've always had to endure. And for those who claim it was a wonderful family fun day, well bully for you but I'll listen to mother, a woman who faced armed UDA men ordering her to shut up the bakery she was managing during the Ulster Workers Council strike, but who still said that yesterday in the town was the most intimidating atmosphere she had ever endured. Ulster Covenant - I wouldn't wipe my arse with it.

And just to add to the fun my back has gone. I'm not sure why (although I suspect it was sit-ups which, no matter what way I do them, always crucify me somehow) but it woke early on Saturday with the pain and it has yet to dissipate, despite applications of jollop and those crappy heat packs that I've never trusted anyway. From time to time I am prone to back twinges but these are the worst I have had as long as I can remember (possibly ever) and there isn't a position I can take that feels comfortable. Needless to say I haven't closed an eye since it struck and would be exhausted were it not for the regular explosions of pain forcing me to rouse.

Bugger!
keresaspa: (Tiger Jeet Singh)
One of the grottiest parts of Belfast is the Lower Newtownards Road in the eastern part of the inner city. At the start there are a couple of very badly situated office buildings that overlook the peace line with the Republican Short Strand and are just a quick stroll away from the home of the gentleman on Island Street who displays Ku Klux Klan insignia in his window and Islamophobic stickers on his front door. Those are the last vestiges of the attempts to forcibly turn the city respectable and even they overlook a demolished factory site that was supposed to be redone as a Canary Wharf rip-off but now lies vacant with no sod able to afford to pitch a tent on it, much less skyscrapers. Given that this area is very close to where the Titanic was built and the council and Assembly have decided to pour all their money into that rather than trivial things like hospitals and flood defences I'm surprised they haven't tried harder to forcibly gentrify it but if they have their efforts have failed. True a rather ugly statue was recently thrown up to pay lip-service to the supposed regeneration of the east but Ulster's Freedom Corner and associated wall art remain in place in one of the UDA's few areas of any influence in east Belfast, after the reign of moody, drug-peddling bisexual Jim Gray saw most eastern loyalists transfer their allegiance to the UVF.

The lower Newtownards Road used to be one of a number of big local shopping areas across Belfast but, whilst it picks up a bit once you pass Templemore Avenue, of about twenty or thirty shops that line the opposite side of the road below the Avenue I can think of only one that is still occupied (a kilt hire shop in case you were wondering). However when I was last there about a month ago they had hit on a novel idea for dealing with that - mock up shop fronts, screen print them onto shop sized billboards and bolt them on the front of the derelict buildings. Sure, they're lying empty with no hope of being filled but at least they look occupied (well, to somebody half-blind speeding past at about 100 MPH they do).

"How tin-pot, second-rate and frankly embarrassing" I thought to myself. "Imagine being reduced so low that you have stick pretend shop fraud things on the front of all your empty buildings. What a humiliating image to present for a defeated city to the rest of the world."

Well stone me if some bright spark hasn't decided to start doing the same thing to the city centre. Really? That's the image you want people to see when they visit Belfast, that we are so out of hope that in our main commercial district we are reduced to covering up the vacant lots with silly mock-ups? Good Lord even a sign saying "Coming Soon...?" would be less humiliating. I know the council are full of bad ideas but this is possibly the worst they have come up with yet. Derelict shops are a clear symptom of the economic decay crippling this old town but on the plus side they have a gloomy atmosphere about them that can be quite appealing if you're in the right frame of mind. Fake shops glued on top of them however are about as soul-destroying a sight as I can imagine. End this madness now!
keresaspa: (Meg)
Every year the stretch of the Ormeau Road (where I live) that runs from the south bank of the River Lagan up to the Good Shepherd Church is dressed for the Twelfth with a flag draped from each lamppost, a Union Jack from one, an Ulster banner from the next and so on up and down that whole stretch of road. The same thing happens on other loyalist roads in Belfast, albeit with the inclusion of UVF or UDA flags (depending on who controls the area), so what's the problem? Well, quite simply the Ormeau Road is by no stretch of the imagination a loyalist road. The whole area is mixed and, whilst traditionally it has been more Protestant, the demographics have shifted markedly in recent years to the point where there are now two shops openly selling First Holy Communion gifts (unthinkable in the past) and the only bar that could be identified as one side of the other is the Parador, which is firmly Catholic. OK, Annadale flats and the surrounding streets remain loyalist but these are some distance back from the main road and the streets in between are definitely mixed and always have been (I lived there as a kid and my ma's cousin lived there until her recent death).

So with all this in mind why ever year do these triumphalist reminders have to be rammed down our throats? We keep hearing the same old rhetoric from Peter Robinson about shared futures (there speaks a man worried about the fecund Fenians breeding him out of office) and yet the same old crap continues. You can call it Orangefest and show as many pictures of happy, smiling Orange children as you want but the Twelfth is still the definition of "know your place" in which said Fenians are reminded of their role by the streets being taken over by thousands or noisy bigots waving flags in their faces with the air still heavy with the polluting stench of immolated tyres smouldering from the night before.

The supposed leader of republicanism in the north makes a public display of deference and fealty to the British monarch and yet none of this superannuated bigoted crap changes. Shared future my arse. If it is truly to be a shared future triumphalist symbols need to come down from roads that are already "shared". What with this, the fact that the Village looks more and more like a war-zone every time I go through it and all hell set to break loose once more at Ardoyne I am very glad that I had the foresight to book my annual trip to London for next week as quite frankly I couldn't stand another round of the same old "Derry's Walls", Whiterock Flute Band and sham fights crap that destroys every summer. On top of that I have it on good authority (from a member of the Pride of the Lagan Valley Flute Band no less) that the vans at the field charge all the morons eight quid for a lousy burger. Enjoy your BSE, I'll be glad to be away from it!
keresaspa: (Giant Haystacks pissed as a frt!)
OK, can we please have a bloody year where the self-described "royal" family do not have to give the loyalist boneheads that populate this insignificant little stain in the Atlantic Ocean an excuse to drag their precious "Twelfth" out for several months? Last year it was Teeth of Mordor and his feckless bint who ensured by virtue of marriage that flags would flutter from every lamppost for several months longer than usual now it is because some ancient woman who has never done a hand's turn in her life and who is so sensitive to the realities of modern life that she parades around in the middle of a bastard of a recession wearing more bling than Kanye West, Snoop Doggy Dogg and Puff Daddy combined refuses to die. As every schoolboy knows there are few things that bring out my inner republican quite like the deference that working class loyalists afford to their super rich "royal" dominators and this whole jubilee crap has shot my blood pressure through the roof to be honest.

It's not enough that every July the loyalist roads and those that they still claim despite huge demographic shifts (word to the wise, lads, there are now two shops on Upper Ormeau openly advertising the sale of Holy Communion gifts so your butcher's aprons are no longer required) are awash with Ulster banners, Union Jacks and UVF and UDA flags but now it is all spring and summer thanks to the bloody Windsors and their obsession with making a public spectacle out of everything they do. It is a mystery quite what the flags of the UVF (all over the Shankill, Shore Road and the Village) and the UDA (one house on the Donegall Road) have to do with Elizabeth Windsor although seeing as she has a million and one military titles that were handed to her for services to drawing copious amounts from the public purse I suppose it is not inconceivable that she has also been awarded an honorary place on the UVF's Brigade Staff as well as the role of honorary Commander of D Company of the Westminster and Green Park Brigade of the UDA. Heck, even gippy little houses that are due for the chop have been bedecked with flags, such has been the explosion of ultranationalism that has gripped the loyalists because of the fact that some old brass has lived a long time.

I don't begrudge anybody their fun (well, that's not strictly true) but we get more than enough triumphalism and extreme British nationalism forced down our throats in this place without another great dollop of it being ladled onto our heads because of yet another arbitrary date in the calendar. For the English the Diamond Jubilee might well be a lovely time of leather on willow and happy, smiling white children playing together on the village green but in Belfast it will be yet another excuse for underprivileged people to get drunk and descend on the town looking trouble, all in the name of supporting privilege, hierarchy and inequality. And don't even get me started on the ball-licking Fenian bastards who are taking part in celebrations. As far as I'm concerned they are lower than the scabby rat feasting on corpses in a crack house.

One thing did strike me - whilst the Shankill is festooned with huge Union Jacks of a size not normally seen anywhere but a National Front rally it is odd to see that for the Diamond Jubilee the Shankill's own Diamond Jubilee has made such a poor fist of its decorations, relying on some scaldy bit of bunting that has been lying there since the year dot. Jolly bad show for Her Maj's big day.

And remember Jubilee is (almost) an anagram of Juiblex therefore you are actually celebrating a Demon Lord of slime and ooze with all this. So when a gelatinous cube descends upon the village green and absorbs an entire Boy Scout troop don't say I didn't warn you in advance.
keresaspa: (Jimmy Edwards)
There is an unwritten law regarding me and the wearing of boots. Obviously it is an unwritten law as I still don't think we have reached the point where the government passes laws relating to one individual's feet, but I digress. If I buy a new pair of boots (as I did around a month ago) I will wear them for a while with two pairs of socks just to let them get the feel and shape of my feet. After a couple of weeks of that the extra pair is discarded and I tramp around happy as a sandboy with the boots officially broken in. Then it happens. About a month in the boots suddenly decide "this smug faced crow with kindling eye needs taught a lesson" and the pain arrives. Suddenly the boots become tighter than a polar bear's arse in a snowstorm then by and by they are looser than Shar Pei's sack and I'm left with more blisters than Alan Sugar has ill-gotten gains, all the while wondering who boots can be simultaneously too big and too small. Were they brand new I would get it but it's always after a month when they should more or less have moulded themselves to the shape of my flippers so what gives? A pox on footwear I say.

Not that I was merely walking round the corner admittedly but rather took my favoured route along the previously discussed Shore Road. One thing caught my eye as I passed the also previously discussed Mount Vernon estate, to wit the UVF murals that decorate the sides of the lovely Ross House, a tenement block with delightful views of the M2 Fortwilliam junction.

Mount Vernon paint job


Nice paint job there, lads. I must confess to not being a huge fan of such examples of wanton vandalism, despite my personal distaste for the UVF, as the paramilitary murals are one of the few things to actually give Belfast any individual character and these days there seems to be any excuse to cover them with those hideous "community murals" in which some old rubbish in a contrived childish style purports to show some grim hellhole like Tiger's Bay or the Bone to be a diverse, all-inclusive paradise rather than the grotty, sectarian concentration camp for the poor that it actually is. I can't say I know who or what was behind this particular attack on an innocent drawing but were I to lay odds on it my money would be on a crowd of yahoos with links to Tommy English from the South-East Antrim Brigade of the UDA reacting in a fit of pique to the inevitable collapse of the Supergrass trial. OK, the world and his wife knows that Mark Haddock has been a bad bastard for years but when a case is built on the testimony of a couple of booze-sodden junkies who by rights should be in the dock alongside Haddock it is hardly a surprise when said case stands up about as well as the chief witnesses themselves do on a Friday night. The big fear now is that, assuming SEA is behind the paint attack, it could usher in the dreaded loyalist feud based on tit for tat attacks. Put it this way, if a group of YCV hoods turn up in Bencrom Park hurling tins of Farrow & Ball at the wall art then it will be bad news for everybody, with the probable exception of Harry Noblett. A matt vinyl slick of a level not seen since the dark (or magnolia) days of ought four could engulf this whole city.

Around the same time I chanced upon a car wash that lay nearby. Of course it is the cliché of commercial rap video producers that hand car washes are by definition highly charged erotic fayre, featuring as they do impossibly shiny muscle cars being suggestively rubbed down by impossibly bottomed bikini clad ladies of dubious repute. Now inevitably the reality is nothing like that as you end up with some old Belfast boilers, bundled up against the cold (what cold?) hurling buckets of water over crappy little Renaults and the like and so it proved as I passed one such establishment on the Shore Road. Except the tableau vivant that was unfolding before my eyes was, to be frank, every bit as enjoyable as anything the makers of naff teenage boy films could come up. So three cheers for the Shore Road boilers who are welcome to buff up my hood any day of the week! Yes, I am a dreadful excuse for a human being.

And to return to my initial point about unwritten laws that need to be written (yes, this is all terribly disjointed but I've been out of practice recently) there really needs to be a rule that anybody ostensibly speaking the English language who uses the word "tranche" should be immediately sentenced to the ramming of a closed fist into their face repeatedly. Using bits of French whilst speaking English in an attempt to look somehow impressive was killed off by Del-Boy in the 80s and the fact that there are still people attempting it (invariably the sort who use several tranches of management-speak as part of their inconsequential babbling) is as good a reason for a bloody good hiding as I've ever heard. And "tableau vivant" doesn't count as the phrase "living table" would make no sense outside of a psychedelic nightmare.

Fin.

Old infirm

Feb. 14th, 2012 08:59 pm
keresaspa: (Marlene Dietrich)
Imagine a world without Rangers - loyalists having to pretend to support Hearts, Dundee or Morton, Celtic supporters having to pretend to hate Partick Thistle or Queen's Park, Aberdeen supporters having to pretend to hate Caley Thistle, supporters of all the other teams having to get used to hating only Celtic. It just wouldn't seem right would it? What would half of the spides in Belfast wear for a start? What would become of all those tasteful Rangers doors and fences bolted onto to council houses? How would Cash Converters cope with the sudden influx of Rangers-branded sovereign rings, gold chains and the like? What about all the tattoos on pasty arms, chests and arse-cheeks of flabby men from Ballinamallard to Bottacks? Hasn't Andy Fordham suffered enough in his life? Doesn't bacon taste funny these days? Yes, now that Rangers have entered administration there really are more questions than answers.

Despite my perfunctory, superficial, part-time allegiance to the green and white half of the Old Firm I must say that I take no pleasure (well, maybe a little but not a lot) from the current predicament in which the Teds find themselves. Lisa Simpson had it right for just as Sherlock Holmes had his Dr. Moriarty, Mountain Dew has its Mellow Yellow (bit lost on this side of the pond, that one) and even Maggie has that baby with the one eyebrow, so too do Celtic need Rangers to coexist. God knows Scottish football has become a big enough afterthought in recent years but how much worse would that get if there was just one big club rather than two? Either somebody else would have to emerge to fill the void left by Rangers or Celtic themselves would slip back and the SPL would end up around the level of the Maltese League. Certainly there is no club in the rabble of filler teams that could get up anywhere near the level of Rangers any time in the next twenty years so decline and fall would be the only outcome. Admittedly it might make the SPL more competitive if Rangers died and Celtic fell away but equally it could have the reverse effect. It seems boring now with one of two clubs winning every year but imagine a league where Celtic win the title every year without fail as, even if they did decline, they would still be far ahead of the competition (who would lose two big pay days a season from when the Gers are in town and their ground fills up).

So save the Bears it is then. You know, we are often reminded about the "Ulster" connection where Rangers are concerned and they are nearly all supporters to a man so why don't the UDA just buy Rangers and be done with it? It would keep their beloved club afloat, provide a convenient location for the laundering of funny money and allow Jackie McDonald the opportunity to strut about in the manner of Ramzan Kadyrov. Problem solved - get it done.

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