The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
The House That Who Built?

A corrupt press calls aloud for the suppression of every Irish journal that refuses to prostitute itself - James Connolly

Anthony McIntyre • June 22 2003

Censors, it seems, become fixated with their task. Some take it to the point of obsession, thrashing and flailing in a raging sea of ideas where they try to keep afloat by imposing a calming stillness on the waters, even freezing them so that nothing moves without their approval. But like King Canute who stood on the beach vainly commanding the tide to halt, the censor will ultimately retch on the taste of frustration. As Alfred Whitney Griswold once put it, 'in the long run of history, the censor and the inquisitor have always lost.'

Mairtin O Muilleoir, of the West Belfast gombeen class and numero uno in the Andersonstown News business corporation, too, shall hardly avoid frustration’s acrid taste. Last week in a fit of pique at his tabloid being challenged by a writer who refused to prostitute himself, he used his right to reply in the Irish Echo, not to reply at all to an article by Eamon Lynch, but to spit some bile in the direction of myself. Maintaining faith with the standards of his own publications his Irish Echo column was noticeably weak on facts. Echo readers were instead treated to a dance of deceit, the steps of which will be traced in an upcoming article whether or not the millionaire proprietor at the Echo honours my right to reply.

O Muilleoir’s business empire is no more governed by an intellectual imperative to provide a news service for a community than it is to enhance the status of that community’s social and economic situation. As the economist John Maynard Keynes dismissively commented about the economic system promoted by O Muilleoir: ‘capitalism is the extraordinary belief that the nastiest of men, for the nastiest of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all.' Are we to believe that ‘money-making Marty’ sees his business venture purely in terms of providing a news service to which profit is only a contingent and secondary consideration?

In terms of information dissemination, the Andersonstown News is primarily about manipulating the presentation of events in a way which will leave readers less rather than more informed. Moreover, it seems oblivious to the existence of a wider community in West Belfast. O Muilleoir describes the ethos of the Andersonstown News as 'pro-Irish, pro-nationalist and pro-Catholic'. He could have pre-fixed each of these with ‘conservative’ without anyone accusing him of dishonesty. It is always the way with Catholic nationalism even when it tries to assume the clothing of republicanism. James Connolly made a piercing observation, which the passage of time has done little to dull, when he referred to the contradiction of those ‘who screech most vehemently for national freedom’ being ‘in domestic affairs in Ireland the allies and champions of social reaction, and the enemies of intellectual freedom.’

Without question there are decent journalists and columnists in the paper. One need only think of Des Wilson or Allison Morris. That the editor does not happen to be in their number is by the by. How he was ever released from a journalist training school prematurely is perhaps something the press council might concern itself with. True, some of the paper’s staff may have won awards. But none yet have won anything for being well paid. The management’s commitment to low wages ensures that they never will.

Arguably, one string in the bow of O Muilleoir’s urge to censor is that he does not want people asking questions about the gombeen network of which he is a part. He has probably suspected for some time that through the columns of The Blanket people have been considering digging deeper and asking probing questions - employing the kind of awkward technique that Freddie Scappaticci did not face in his interview with the Andersonstown News. And O Muilleoir has the business savvy to work out for himself that such questions might address themselves to establishing what building firm constructed Teach Basil (Basil’s House) on Hannahstown Hill where the paper has its printing presses; if the same firm built the Sinn Fein offices on the Falls Road, and if it did how, with its reputation as the Rachmans of the West Belfast building industry, did it ever secure the contracts; if the same contracting concern has been responsible for paying its non-unionised staff the paltry sum of £2 an hour, sacks it workers on the spot if they refuse to work in the rain, exploits (the business euphemism is ‘employs’) former republican prisoners to give the firm the whiff of cordite and ward off probing investigative forays, pays employees in pubs run by the same building concern, inflicts untold economic hardship on the more impoverished of West Belfast by cutting the required minimum heating insulation in their homes by half; and bullies, threatens and intimidates members of the public. O Muilleoir might also have good grounds for suspecting that The Blanket may further inquire into the suppression of articles or references to such activity by both An Phoblacht/Republican News and the Andersonstown News.

In this context where such questioning might throw light on a nefarious network thriving on the exploitation of the most needy in our community O Muilleoir might just be left with some explaining to do. Consequently, he is unsurprisingly apprehensive about journals that refuse to prostitute themselves. And he is alarmed by the existence of the type of people referred to once by Breda O’Brien: those ‘who are outside the inner circles and who are beholden to no one can act as important critical voices, or as advocates for those who otherwise would not be heard.'

The point is, O Muilleoir can chase after The Blanket for years if he so chooses. He can issue writs and threaten libel action to the cows come home. People who sat for years on end in a cell dressed only in a prison blanket defying the might and power of the British state in defence of a belief will hardly find themselves perturbed by what a West Belfast capitalist mutters and threatens. Ultimately, all O Muilleoir is doing is plugging the holes we have already made in the wall of silence which he and his fellow gombeen men have constructed over the years. And we will continue to poke and probe at every turn. Truth is speaking to power and O Muilleoir doesn’t like it. Tough.




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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



Intellectual freedom is essential to human society. Freedom of thought is the only guarantee against an infection of people by mass myths, which, in the hands of treacherous hypocrites and demagogues, can be transformed into bloody dictatorships.
- Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov

Index: Current Articles

22 June 2003


Other Articles From This Issue:


Censorship at the Irish Echo
Patrick Farrelly and Eamon Lynch


The Pen Mightier Than the Sword
Mick Hall


The House that Who Built?
Anthony McIntyre


Angrytown News Responds

Jimmy Sands


Pedro Albizu Campos

Aoife Rivera Serrano


Ernesto Guevara
Liam O Ruairc


Motion Passed
Na Fianna Éireann


19 June 2003


Andersonstown News: Voice of Banana Republicanism?
Eamon Lynch


A Gnat on the Back of an Elephant
Mags Glennon


In Defence of Eamon Lynch
Anthony McIntyre


Left Right?

Eamonn McCann


President-in-Exile in Jail

Pedram Moallemian


The Letters Page has been updated.




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