The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
A Victory for Extremism
James Fitzharris • 8 January 2004

Formerly an old jail which played host to many famous inmates including Thomas Russell and Skin the Goat of the Invincibles, the now restored Down Museum was the venue for one of the most regrettable meetings in the history of the ancient town. Convened by Killyleagh community activist and DUP agent Billy Walker the top table included Jim Wells MLA. Jim Shannon MLA, Dermot Nesbitt MLA, Councillor Albert Colmer Cllr Anne Trainor, apologies from the local SDLP and their M.P. were recorded. The audience included local people, parents of pupils attending local schools, school governors, teachers all with a few notable exceptions gathered to vent their spleen on leading members of the Simon Community and Habiteg who conceived a scheme to provide quality accommodation for the homeless adjacent to the museum and a primary school. The people responsible for the project were listened to in stony silence. It was then left to Billy Walker community worker who lives in the town of Killyleagh to set the tone for the nights meeting. In a speech obviously scripted by the Give my Head Peace team, Billy affirmed that he stood ready and prepared to carry out whatever the people wanted and he was “agin it” and a project 8 years in the planning should be turned into a car park.

Walker’s profound contribution was followed by Cllr Anne Trainor a former SDLP stalwart confirming her independence of thought and action by leading the baying pack in her opposition. As always a model of subtlety she did not disappoint especially in her reference to Soham. To be fair to her and all her colleagues she had no problem with accepting the good intentions and sterling work of the Simon community as long as it was done somewhere else. A sentiment gushingly echoed by top of the poll Jim Wells a supreme DUP opportunist who knows a vote getting issue when he sees it and an opportunity to commence the DUP recruiting campaign. Clinging to the tails of the Wells comet the UUP represented by Councillors Mc Illheron , Colmer consistent in their opposition and an uncomfortable Dermot Nesbitt all playing to the gallery and being cheered to the rafters in their enthusiasm to torpedo the scheme for the homeless. Cllr.Peter Craig Council Chairman and Eddie Mc Grady’s representative on earth declined an invitation to speak. It was left to Cllr Raymond Blaney GP to go to the rostrum and explain why he voted to support the project which he did in a courageous manner putting integrity and compassion in front of votes calling for the project to be given a chance. He made a telling point about the Department of Environment intention some years ago to turn the historic site of the museum into a car park. Cllr Blaney also put the issue of regulating tenancies in context by referring to how private landlords in the area are accountable to no one for who they rent their properties to.

The principle contributors to the discussion from the floor included members of the legal profession, chairmen of boards of governors, principle teachers and others. Taking their led from Walker that all homeless are paedophiles and presuming that none of them or their children will ever be homeless each was scathing in their attacks on the Habiteg and Simon community representatives. Minds were closed to reason and in an atmosphere of hysteria and intimidation. Parents threatened to close schools by removing pupils if the project was advanced. It was quite obvious that representatives responsible for the project shaken by the degree of animosity were rethinking their decision to continue. So called enlightened and educated people stigmatised homelessness and portrayed it as entirely self-inflicted and criminal. They allowed themselves to be manipulated by an Uncle Andy type character anxious to get elected by any means necessary. The media will present this as a row but it goes much deeper. All that was missing was the Klu Klux Klan white sheets and burning crosses.

If the outcome is a halt to the project then homeless people throughout the North will suffer.







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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
- George Bernard Shaw

Index: Current Articles

11 January 2004


Other Articles From This Issue:


A Subtle But Brilliant Use of the IRA
Anthony McIntyre


The Process of ‘Constitutionalisation’
Breandán Morley


A Victory for Extremism
James Fitzharris


Demilitarise Divis Tower
Kathleen O Halloran


History Repeating Itself

Eamon Sweeney


Say What You Like, the Brits Sure Do Know the Irish
Fr. Sean Mc Manus


Rafah Today: Demolishing Houses
Mohammed Omer


8 January 2004


A Man for All Seasons?
Eamon Sweeney


"A Means to Fight Back"
Marian Price


Tame Bulls in the China Shop
Anthony McIntyre


The Rising of the Moon: the language of power
Liam O Ruairc


Limerick Feud Denial

Óglaigh na hÉireann


Selective Memory
Michael Youlton


A Free Press in Iraq?
Mick Hall


Robert Zoellick and Wise Blood - The Hazel Motes Approach to International Trade
Toni Solo


Christmas Greetings 2003
Annie Higgins


The Close of the Year 2003 - The Belfast SWP
Davy Carlin




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