The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
Doing Something Right


Aine Fox • August 5, 2003

In October 1988 the British Government issued and implemented a broadcasting ban which at that time was seen to be the sternest of approaches and most impacted on the rights of freedom of speech and expression. Douglas Hurd delivered the North of Ireland notice and this meant that in the North certain persons belonging to a variety of ‘outlawed’ organisations could not appear on television or radio as spokespersons of the groups they represented e.g. IRA, UDA. The consequence was that the individual citizen's right to judge for one’s self was essentially taken away.

This act illustrates the very essence of censorship. Defined by the Oxford dictionary:

Censor: Person authorised to examine letters, books, films, etc, and remove or ban anything regarded as harmful - remove or ban thus, censorship”.

The act of censoring can be viewed in a multitude of ways - the broad definition could allow for a proofreader changing sentence construction in a colleague’s work to be a possible censor.

People in the North of Ireland are generally aware of the concept and use of censorship on many levels and in many arenas of life. Those most publicised such as the aforementioned UK broadcast ban or to the extent of censorship seen as a direct British tactic to defeat the propaganda war that has occurred over decades on this island.

A large population of the north have at one time spent a period in prison as a result of engaging in paramilitary activity or accused of such activities. It is general procedure to censor letters coming both in and out of any prison - that however did not stop people receiving and giving out information in a variety of different techniques. The idea being that if one knew the information would be censored or was too sensitive for others to view then there was always a way round beating the ‘censors’.

Some, and most defiantly myself see the right of freedom of speech and expression as something that should be enshrined in stone in every corner of this planet. It is often what people die for, the reason for revolutions and ironically most recently even being used by the US/UK Alliance as their reason for invading and occupying Iraq. On a home front the accomplishment of achieving rights for all citizens of the North is part and parcel of our groundbreaking farcical agreement. The agreement that has seen our once revolutionary leaders cower at the behest of Britain and its friends. An agreement which the people of West Belfast were told was beneficial to them. Did that agreement enshrine our right of speech and freedom of expression?

So the question and point of writing being - do we in West Belfast have that right? Are we within our community in West Belfast permitted to express ourselves and speak our minds freely, as living in a democracy we should be fully entitled to?

Answering my own question, my young mind goes back in time and thinks of all the mainstream media bias and censorship in reporting the conflict in the North (and since my memory only goes back to the 80’s, I apologise in advance for my late birth in 1977, just for those reading that might utter - where were you in the 60’s) I think of the times I attended marches and protests as a child and saw people beaten and shot at for expressing their views and not fully understanding why. Now looking to the not so far distant past I participated in anti-war protests recently that saw the same thing happen - oppressive measures to quell the message being delivered. I understood this time round why extreme measures where implemented by those whose role they feel is to control.

I deduct from thought and experience or maybe plain common sense that it is those who believe to be in a controller’s role that decide what one can do or say. In the example of recent anti-war protests it was OK by the controllers that we stood on the path but once we moved to the road they decided this was not appropriate and attempted to exert their control via batons and arrests. On the occasion I speak of however, the controllers did not succeed in their aim to clear the road of protestors even though they assaulted and arrested many participants.

Now I see such a similarity between all these scenarios of censorship and another that has gradually come to light, the tactics are similar only in a different context but it is still controllers exerting power when things don’t go as they aim or plan on.

I refer to the power hungry Sinn Fein and the way they censor those they claim to represent. The tactics have changed - or in actuality it could be myself merely seeing the truth with my own eyes and through my own experiences that has led to this realisation. Watching how the party as a whole presents itself and its objectives - it censors what it doesn’t want people to immediately see both internally with their movement and externally within the wider community they aim to control.

So why would such internal censorship occur? All political parties have a party line. An example of everyone sticking to a party line in Sinn Fein’s context would be the lack of presence of any anti-agreement Sinn Fein members. Now is this because they all strongly believe in their right to administer British rule in the North via Stormont or is it because any anti agreement voices within the rank and file where hushed up or sent packing? When conversing with any Sinn Fein member on personal basis however they inform me of the frequent healthy debate with rank and file members and leadership - since I am not a member of Sinn Fein I do not know if this is so - in fact I have been told before since I am not a member of Sinn Fein I have no right to criticise them.

Why would Sinn Fein have to engage in censorship externally to stretch beyond their own membership to include those within the West Belfast community? On analysis it might be possible to state that it is to enable their propaganda war to continue just like the British Government who implemented a broadcasting ban in 1988. Those with connection to the party are attempting their own broadcasting ban against other republicans with a critical view. This is nothing new - it happened before when republican writers openly criticised the events surrounding the death of Joseph O Connor. Republicans critical of current party policy are not permitted their right to speak freely. Instead they are demonised and described as “discredited”. Tactics learnt from their British counterparts?

What is to fear from healthy debate and criticism? As parents we criticise our children’s actions and attitudes to initiate change. As teachers we criticise the work of students to initiate change in practice. As political minded individuals we criticise what happens around us to initiate change. As readers of a newspaper we may be so bold to criticise to initiate some changes. The latter seems to me the easiest to do, but what happens if the said newspaper does not give one the right to reply? Earlier I referred to prisoners getting information out of prison past the censors by whatever available means available. In any scenario there is always away around the censors. Anthony McIntyre has for a period of time did just that through the medium of an online journal. (One I might add I am proud to contribute to) Prizing as many do the right to freedom of speech the reason for my participation in “ The Blanket” was the opportunity to speak uncensored and that I have been able to do regardless of the topic - from Debating the Legislation of Cannabis or Understanding Suicide Bombers.

The fact is that individuals and groups are going out of their way to stifle this ability to speak freely via the intimidation of other website providers like who were recently forced to remove links to The Blanket as a result of Sinn Fein /Andersonstown News pressure. Was this really necessary? What do the Andersonstown News fear from healthy debate? Something that no reader from the Andersonstown News is given the right - because just like Douglas Hurd’s introduction of the broadcasting ban, Martin O’ Muilleoir (and minions) have taken away the rights of their readers to judge for themselves by refusing critical republican voices the right to reply in their over inked pages.

However as many readers will know they went further again when journalists in the New York based ‘Irish Echo’ - the biggest Irish American newspaper in the US - got wind of the censorship of the ‘Nuzhound’ website by O’Muilleoir and Co. The aim to highlight this story was made impossible by the intervention of the paper’s publisher Sean Finlay who fell foul of the same libel threats. This action of censorship did not go well for Finlay as two of his journalists have resigned (Eamon Lynch and Sean Farrelly) - subsequent angry communications from other journalists employed by the paper have been apparently received from Finlay for jeopardising the editorial credibility of the “Irish Echo”.

O’Muilleoir’s threats than any newspaper that prints a criticism of the Andersonstown News written by Anthony McIntyre may have to be changed to include those people who value their right to speak freely and are not as easily intimidated at the mention of Sinn Fein being unhappy about what we write and publish as some of our ‘American friends’ appear to be.

O’Muilleoir has instigated this campaign of demonisation and censorship against The Blanket. It is not the first time and it surely won't be the last time that independent thinkers are intimidated by a variety of draconian attitudes and thinking. Unlike those who lifted rifles and guns to fight for their right to freedom to speak and express themselves - there are always those willing to lift a pen.

When writing turns into activism you must be doing something right. When those in Teach Basil cringe and begin legal proceedings to hide criticism you must be doing something right. When pressure is put on other sources not to highlight this criticism you must be doing something right. When the editor of a newspaper stands outside your house engaging in what could be technically deemed as “anti social behaviour”(last time I checked it was not accepted social norms to stand outside someone’s house with all your minions because you don’t like what is being said) you must be doing something right When Robin ‘Squinter’ Livingstone attempts to unsuccessfully be sarcastic in your honour you must be doing something right?

Lets hope all those involved with The Blanket project continue to do what they are doing right.

I am pondering if we merely chanted “ securocrats” as the cause to all our problems would O’Muilleoir go find someone else to demonise and censor and give us the OK?



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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

5 August 2003


Other Articles From This Issue:


Spooks, Spies and Spoofers
Anthony McIntyre


Doing Something Right
Aine Fox


The Ideas of Frantz Fanon

Liam O Ruairc


Terrorism and Civil Society as Instruments of US Policy in Cuba
Philip Agee


The Letters Page has been updated.


29 July 2003


Our Places in the Great Wall
Seaghán Ó Murchú


Mr Michael McKevitt's Statement at the Special Criminal Court
Michael McKevitt


Crisis of Political Imagination

Liam O Ruairc


Childhood, - West Belfast, Race and 'Irishness'
Davy Carlin


Island Palestine
Anthony McIntyre


A Short History of the Global Economy Since 1880
M. Shahid Alam


Belfast's Big-headed Bully-boy
Margaret Quinn




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