The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Talking with... Áine Gribbon

Áine Gribbon, mother of nine, is a member of the Rathenraw Community Association. A former Sinn Fein candidate, she stood for Sinn Fein a number of times in local elections. In May, she resigned from Sinn Fein along with the rest of her Cumann in protest at the disparity in treatment they felt they were receiving from the party. Since then, the two Sinn Fein councillors representing the area have embarked on a media campaign targetting their former party members, in an attempt to smear their characters and put pressure on them. The former Sinn Fein workers in Rathenraw have also been threatened, targets of hoax bombs, received death threats, and feel they are possibly being set up for assasination by loyalists. Áine speaks to the Blanket about life in Rathenraw, her hopes for her community and her fears.


4 November 2004

Campaign of -- what would you call it? Slander, a slanderous campaign going on, to do with the community association and ourselves in particular. Accusations flying about -- what are we into? Today we have heard we are running a protection racket, that a group of young lads are going about telling people to give money or they will be put out. Which is complete nonsense. We are supposed to be into selling fireworks, drugs. It's sick. I don't know where this... Breaking into factories and stealing and selling stuff on, classing on like renegades.

Complete and utter nonsense, all these empty houses that are supposed to be here, people can come up and see, they aren't there.

The unionists are having a laugh at Sinn Fein, running off on half cocked stories, ghost stories. Instead of 90% true and flowering 10% up, it's the other way round.

For example, this lastest story about the fire, supposed to have been arson, TV reports and all, and it looks to be that the kids were smoking in the room and threw the butt out the window when they thought they heard someone coming up the stairs, and the curtains caught. The fire started from the inside, not the outside.

So what you have here is stories being presented in the news one way and the truth is actually the other way round. And even when it is proved as lies, certain media is hellbent on presenting the lies, not the truth. They would rather maintain relationships with the liars than be true journalists and print the truth.

The Antrim Council is a unionist led council and the papers go with the unionist line all the time and they are hellbent on slapping a bad name on Rathenraw, a mainly nationalist estate, and Sinn Fein are keen on joining in with those people to do that. We put SF to defend us and to help us on our estate, not to go against us in everything they do.

I was with Sinn Fein since 1997, 1998. I joined to benefit the estate, to try and get a voice for the nationalist people in Antrim, because they didn't have one, and that's why I had stood for the Council at the time, because I could see the difference in the estates, difference in funding, and Rathenraw was getting very little. Things needed to be highlighted, nationalists being beaten, jobs, job opportunities were as bad in Antrim as they had been in Belfast years ago. We were doing work with one wee lad who worked round in the factories, his supervisor called him his 'pet taig' -- in this day and age! So all these things led to my joining, just to stand up for what is right, there was nothing right going on in Antrim.

I've stood for council for Sinn Fein about four times, elections and by-elections, because I thought they were a party for the people, as they make out. I did a lot of constiuency work, getting heating for people, a women's group, educating myself along the way. Trying to work, hold down a job as well, all the while, and rearing 8, now 9 kids.

I got disillusioned when the two councillors got in, got elected, completely turned tail, more interested in what's being built, who owns the fields. People want them to be fighting their corner for them in the council, not worry about who owns what. People want to know why the youth club has to close, why they can't get play parks. Issues that concern them and their children's well being. The meetings about our areas they don't turn in to.

It's hard getting funding for things residents need if everytime you lift the press you're reading about the muck, some of the muck is going to stick, and I don't understand why they are throwing the muck. In the end it is the nationalist community of Rathenraw that is going to suffer, and it is our own representatives that are depriving us of this. It's another thing, if he turns around and says you are going to lose funding, and he doesn't turn up at meetings he's needed to represent us, and then he turns around and says it was this that and the other in the press, and blames us, it isn't right.

There's plenty of muck, of dirt we could throw, about our councillors, but we don't want to go down that road of tit for tat. We want them to buck up their act and start doing their job that they were elected to do, or else resign. Stand down and allow someone who is going to do the job and work for the people to step up and get the job done. For us and with us.

5 years ago, Rathenraw was in the top worst crime areas in the Antrim borough, and now it is the lowest crime rate. We have worked hard. But we know people if they want to move out, they know they can claim initimidation and the police will go along with it. Some of it is a game, people do it because they think, aye, we're moving out, everything is sweet, then they move out and realize how much they liked it here. One woman went to Scotland, she had made a big stink about how she was put out, now she is petitioning back to come back, it's like that, if it was intimidation you wouldn't be able to come back in, the housing executive wouldn't put you back in. But people are happy to run those stories because it makes a good story, instead of taking the time to find the truth.

Me personally, I take great offense at the remarks that have been in the paper because I am part of the Community Association and this all reflects on myself and my family. I take it personally when they are saying these things, they are blaming me and they are making targets out of us, out of our kids.

We only left Sinn Fein this past May, so any families that are alleged to be put out, or intimidated before May, it must have been under Sinn Fein's say so and under their approval, as these complaints have only come to surface because we left Sinn Fein. So either there was not and is not a problem with people being intimidated out of the estate or this is because Sinn Fein is upset that we have left and are playing up this angle to discredit us, to throw muck because we left. I can tell you there have not been 20 families that have been initimdated out of here since May, as they claim. There definitely hasn't been 20 put out in the last five years. It depends on the paper you read, too, and the councillor that tells it, the figures are totally mad. Some papers say 12 families, some say 16 or 18, other papers say 20. It's all a joke, one is claiming one family a week is going. For a small estate of 250 houses for one a week to be going it wouldn't take long for the whole estate to be replaced. Yet no one is checking the claims to find out the truth.

3 people have gone to the media claiming to have been intimidated, they are all close friends of each other or family. One other person left in contention, but they say it was their own free will, they did not go to the media over it claiming intimidation. Numbers make no difference, the fact is it's a load of nonsense. People leave the estate, of course that happens everywhere, but they leave for normal reasons, not for being intimidated as is being claimed or made out. It is like they are counting up everyone who has moved and saying they were intimidated, and that's just not true. Family disputes turn into politics months later. Just thinking about it, within the last 5 years I can think of about 8 or 9 people who left because of intimidation, which includes neighborly disputes, fighting with neighbors, children fighting, stuff like that, not people being intimidated by Sinn Fein or the Community Association. Mostly neighbourly stuff, windows broke by neighbors or kids in the street, not an orchestrated campaign. And for a number of them, we did attempt mediation, and used CRJ to try to resovle the problems to keep people from moving or feeling that was their only option.

Hopefully next year we will have a play park, and an all weather pitch. We are working on community gardens and stuff like that, and hopefully the community centre will be built. We are still continuing the community work. Hopefully we can secure funding to help people's well-being in our own area, the likes of a Well Man Clinic, if we secure funding and we can do different projects for children and the adults in the area. Rathenraw is such a nice open and green space for children and families to be brought up, in a nice, caring and safe environment. People take a pride in the place where they live. We are trying to stamp out graffiti and work with the children to take pride in where they live and take pride in their home. We invite anyone to come up and see, we would argue that Rathenraw is the best estate in Antrim. It's a place where people want to live. No matter what happens or what is said, we are here to stay, we have a strong community assication that is growing in numbers and strength and is working for all the community and will continue to do so. This is where we live, and have lived for the past 25 years and I'm now bringing up a second generation living here. I've a lot invested in this community and I want to do what I can to make it the best I can. I actually do love Rathenraw, there's not many other places I can think of that I'd rather be.




Index: Current Articles + Latest News and Views + Book Reviews + Letters + Archives

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

7 November 2004

Other Articles From This Issue:

How We Progressives Helped Elect G.W. Bush
Fred A. Wilcox

No Escape from the Anthill
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Talking With... Áine Gribbon

Meeting Hugh Orde
Anthony McIntyre

A Woman's Right to Choose
Mick Hall

A Single Palestine
Peter Urban

Turkey Day
Brian Mór

4 November 2004

The Torture of John Devine
Anthony McIntyre

Defending the Faith
Dr John Coulter

Simulating the Simulators
Eoghan O’Suillabhain

Learning from Hurley
Gréagoir O’Gaothin

Politics and Reason
Mark Burke

If Looks Could Kill
Sean Smyth

Fraternal Parting
Davy Carlin

Bluebeard's Castle
Toni Solo



The Blanket




Latest News & Views
Index: Current Articles
Book Reviews
The Blanket Magazine Winter 2002
Republican Voices