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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Litter & Glass


Anthony McIntyre • 20 February 2007

Travelling past the Rathcoole estate this morning with Kevin McQuillan, we decided to detour and drive through it. He wanted to see if he could take us to a house where a relative had lived before being forced to leave the area as a result of Loyalist intimidation. He prided himself on his sense of direction and to be fair to him it proved the equal of the TomTom car navigation system.

It is about 14 years since I last drove through Rathcoole. Just out of prison, a friend thought he would try putting my nerves on edge by careering through one of Belfast's most prominent loyalist areas. Then we kept to the main thoroughfare and I was nervous throughout. This morning was different. There was no apprehension as we made our way into the heart of the estate before slowing down outside where Kevin's relative had lived. There was a certain surrealism to it. Two former republican prisoners driving though a loyalist estate just to gawk at a house where another former republican prisoner had lived at the start of the conflict. On the way back Kevin phoned him and told him we had been outside his old house.

While I would not have liked the car to have experienced any malfunction en route, the lack of unease at being in the homeland of the late John Grug Gregg and his violent coterie was indicative of how 14 years had made a lot of difference. The last time I felt comfortable in Rathcoole was during my schooldays when we would visit the area to see school friends or associates from the boxing club we belonged to in the Markets. Then, unlike today, the visits were made with a friend who was a yet to be republican prisoner. That rite of passage came later to us all.

If we were expecting to be met with a display of loyalist murals and painted kerbs akin to Johnnyville of old in the Lower Shankill, it didn't happen. If they were there at all they failed to register. What jumped out at me from Rathcoole was the cleanliness of its streets. I remarked to Kevin how spotless the place looked. Whether the street cleaners had just been there minutes ahead of us I don't know. Somehow I doubt it. No matter how many times they cover the streets of the estate I live in, the litter seems to be rearranged rather than removed. There seemed to be no litter on the streets of Rathcoole at all. The last time I saw streets as litter-free in a working class estate was in Belvoir.

Coming back through West Belfast we had hardly turned onto the Whiterock Road to make the climb up into Ballymurphy when the litter began to greet us. The more progress we made the greater the volume of discarded paper, plastic bags and bottles that lay strewn in the streets.

The state of our streets is a frequent cause of complaint. Parents are fearful of letting their very young outside the garden in case they get cut by glass. Quite often it makes little difference as bottles are frequently thrown into residents' gardens by those on the drink, either too lazy or blocked to consider placing their empties in the nearest bin an option. Even when accompanied by parents children are still susceptible to being cut by broken glass. My daughter on a trip to the local chippie with me ripped her finger just outside the shop as she leaned on a ledge to peer through the window. Part of a bottle had been left there in all likelihood by an inebriated owner.

Quite often the culprits are an unspoken alliance of older drinkers and kids. The adults leave their bottles on the street and children find them before tossing them for the sheer fun of doing what kids do.

Some people put the litter problem down to bad political representation. Those elected to the city council are accused of not making sufficient use of their office to apply pressure to council officials to ensure that adequate services are provided for the community. How true that is remains uncertain. It is hard to imagine local representatives being indifferent to the litter regime that prevails here and pollutes their daily lives.

Rathcoole residents are from the same social class as people in Ballymurphy. They have roughly the same amenities and avail of the same services. Their quality of life on the litter front at least is measurably better than the people who live in Ballymurphy. No one buys into the sectarian nonsense that people in nationalist working class areas are less hygiene-sensitive than their unionist counterparts. Our young people are no more inclined towards vandalism than other areas. And the extent to which a drink culture exists here it is presumably mirrored in Rathcoole. The pride that local people take in the immaculate interior of their homes is palpable. But for some reason the cleanliness of the homes is not replicated on the streets.

Whatever it is about Rathcoole there is something to be learned from it in a way that would give power sharing real meaning in both communities rather than the power splitting the communities are being offered by the political class if it manages to put aside its internal differences and gets its collective snout into the trough of government. As working class areas are on stand-by to be shafted by the British government on water taxes and rates, and with no chance of the Stormont cavalry riding over the hill to save them, they could do much worse than turn to each other.




















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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



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Index: Current Articles

22 February 2007

Other Articles From This Issue:

Litter & Glass
Anthony McIntyre

Not Worth the Paper Its Written On
John Kennedy

Ballot Box Pressure
Mick Hall

Commission of Truth Needed, Says O Hara
Peggy O Hara

RSF Election News
Press Release

Help Sinn Feign
Brian Mór

British Policing Must Never Be Acceptable in Ireland
Francis Mackey

The Next Step
Dr John Coulter

Conclusions from the Ard Fheis
Brian Halpin

McAleese Should be Criticised
David Adams

The Best Woman to Succeed
Dr John Coulter

Fred A. Wilcox

The Critical History of (Irish pop) Noise
Seaghán Ó Murchú

No Clean Hands
Anthony McIntyre

13 February 2007

Compromise, Compromise, Compromise
Helen McClafferty

Martin Galvin

The Heart of Collusion
John Kennedy

Bad Tactics
Anthony McIntyre

The Clothes Make the Man
Mick Hall

Follow the Leader
John Kennedy

Dry Your Eyes
John Kennedy

The Foreman
Anthony McIntyre

Mc Cain and Northern Ireland
Fr. Sean Mc Manus

Rumours of Retirement
Dr John Coulter

Liam O Ruairc

If MI5 rules, What was the 30-year war all about?
John Kelly

PRUC Service
Brian Mór

Nationalists Divided Over Sinn Fein Support for British Policing
Paul Mallon

Remember the B Specials?
Dr John Coulter

The Boyne Harriers
Brian Mór

Coming Full Circle
Seaghán Ó Murchú

The Need for an Anti-Imperialist United Front
Philip Ferguson



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