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By David Vance On June 16th, 2011

Not often I agree with Brian Feeney but he does make some good points here.


  1. Feeney is spot on, and said what needed to be said.

  2. For the benefit of the best of us, what newspaper was this article in, and is there a link to it?

  3. Brian Feeney only writes for the Irish News Phantom, he is one of the best commentators and authors around within the media and irish politics.

  4. Thank you – looks like it’s behind a paywall!

  5. Of course what Feeney has pointed out is that between 1981 and 2011 West Belfast stayed bottom as well. Not just between 1981 and 1991 and between 2001 and 2011 but also between 1991 and 2001. And who was MP for West Belfast for 50% of that period of time? Doc Joe Hendron, a member of Feeney’s own party.

    More needs to be done to help West Belfast. But it isn’t a party political. It isn’t that Sinn Féin haven’t done anything. The SDLP didn’t do anything eiter. It begs the question what has Feeney’s SDLP ever done for West Belfast?

  6. Apart from things that involve pots of money from some central repository, what would y’all recommend to make the place a more attractive place to live, visit and invest in?

  7. Seamus,

    Brian Feeney is often critical of the SDLP too – there doesn’t seem to be much love lost there.

  8. Seamus that was at the time of the provisional campaign as Feeney points out.

  9. Hendron was MP here for five years

    Hendron was the Member of Parliament (MP) for Belfast West between April 1992 and May 1997 in the UK Parliament in London.


    hardly fifty percent!!!

  10. 50% of the period of 1991 to 2001. Despite being MP for half that period the standards in West Belfast didn’t increase. Feeney should put his own house in order before getting involved in a mudslinging contest.

  11. SDLP wasn’t in government. Sinn Fein is.

  12. Aye Seamus, and between 1992 and 1997 there was an SDLP MP 100% of the time!

    Seriously, Feeney has a point and I doubt he would even still consider the SDLP to be “his house”.

  13. Seamus fifty percent of ten years is five years, yes I understand the point but fail to see the relevance of it. Five years compared to Gerry Adams tenure is hardly comparing like with like now is it? I doubt this is about Feeney putting ‘his own house in order’, if so the Andersonstown news writer who pointed out the same thing not too long ago, maybe he was trying to put his house in order?

    Feeney isn’t the first to mention this, he says so in the article, so I think you are looking at this from a very baised viewpoint.

  14. I think this is an indictment of Sinn Fein rule. West Belfast now has another Sinn Fein MLA/MP with two jobs while the constituents are trying to get one. I was at Clonard Novean and a lot of people are telling me they are going there to pray for work for their sons and daughters, seeking Heavens’ help because I doubt there will be any political work done to improve their lot.

  15. The SDLP is in the same government as Sinn Féin. The entire time that Sinn Féin have been in government the SDLP have been.

  16. How does that take away from Feeneys point? In west Belfast the SDLP usually take one seat while SF have the rest, Sinn Fein dominate this place, and that is the point of the article. Sinn Fein have been very successful as a party, yet its most safe seat lies at the bottom of all poverty leagues, so where is west belfasts share of sinn feins success? Can you tell us that?

  17. Seamus

    The point is that the SDLP were punished for their failures to deliver for West Belfast. It seems as if that same constituency are not willing to make Sinn Fein equally accoutable. Feeney shouldn’t really be blaming SF. He should be blaming the electorate for being so docile and undeservingly loyal to SF. Why should SF try harder for the people when the people’s message continues to be “Don’t worry , we will keep re-electing you with thumping majorities anyway”.

  18. For the time that the area was represented by SDLP, that party was in government? I don’t think so, and that’s what I was saying.

    At the present time, SF represents the area and it has a pretty big say in how the joint is run. SDLP was never in that position.

  19. It’s old loyalties left over from the troubles, as is pointed out re from the H block campaign. Those loyalties are very hard to dislodge.

  20. >>make the place a more attractive place to live, visit and invest in?<<

    The standard of education appears to be as high or higher than in the rest of Belfast or Britain. There still seems to be a large lout culture there though, and the high crime rate will have to be tackled sooner or later. Closer parent-PSNI liaison would be a start.
    Feeney makes a good point about SF's lack of job strategy. It's hard to know what to do about West Belfast. It must, however, be said that the place has suffered disproportionally down the years/decades, and it would be news if it were suddenly to become a hive of industry and prosperity.

    On the other hand, one fault of this generation of Irish republicanism is that it – with its general working class base and vaguely socialist outlook – never developed a culture of achievement or provided role models for young people, whether in academic or business life, sport or even contribution to the community.
    Until very recently, all focus was on success in the "struggle", armed or political.

  21. Has that party ever even addressed ” lout culture “?

    It’s pretty easy to ask for change from ” the British ” or ” the Unionists ” or ” the government ”

    It takes leadership to demand change and accountability in ” your ” own community.

  22. SF’s job strategy, was jobs for the boys and girls and to hell with everyone else.

    West Belfast was all the worse for Adam’s ‘representation.’ Good riddance to him I’d say- and woe to the people of Louth.

  23. Feeney and the SDLP fell out years ago- and the loathing is mutual!

  24. There have been attempts to adopt a strategy for the ‘lout culture’, in so far that the PSNI are now on board simply I presume because people had no where left to turn, due to the vaccuum left when punishment beatings became a political no no. Despite these meagre efforts some parts of this constituency are over run with these louts but then so is otherplaces which are unionist dominated. You are right though that the socialist outlook maybe a drawback, but this was never a place for the people who feared to work. There was a lot of discrimination in the past, jobs handed down from father to son were mainly of the unionist persuasion, but not now. Educational standard is very high compared to unionist areas, that are now bemoaning the unionist/loyalist young who haven’t benefited from education provision.

    There is too much emphasis on discord between republicans and not enough on bread and butter issues as you say.

  25. Sinn Fein meeting, official minutes:

    Chairman: OK welcome all, the first item on the agenda is how to deal with entrenched poverty and unemployment in West Belfast.

    Member 1: I know we could put an tricolour on top of the townhall.
    Member 2: Let’s make children learn Irish!

    Chairman: Excellent, that’s that sorted.

  26. Sounds about right.

  27. ‘De-politician’ the area?

    Bring in an assortment of non-denominational experts to run the place.

  28. Interesting that you say that educational standards are high [ in nationalist areas ]

    As all would know, the standard is also high in the RofI.

    That’s something to build on.

  29. West Belfast is different to the other parts of Belfast. West Belfast is almost exclusively residential. It has one of the highest population densities in Northern Ireland. West Belfast’s population density is 2,150 people per km2. East Belfast’s is 1,625 per km2. There isn’t the same sort of space for the huge developments that there have been in the Titanic Quarter. Why did East Belfast get that investment? Because there was a huge amount of land with nothing on it. Additionally greater population density is naturally going to cause an increase in many areas of deprivation.

    There are hundreds of other reasons why West Belfast has lagged behind. Some of them are the fault of Sinn Féin. But many of them have nothing to do with any political party.

  30. Ross, of course the same applies in Portadown and Ballymena ( is it still the Heroin capital of the UK?) only the flags and language are different.

  31. Well, you shouldn’t only be dependent on jobs in your own neighborhood. People do commute if there’s a job in the wider area.

  32. Phantom –

    Strange to say, supporting violent insurgents, terror campaigns, cleansing protestants and electing psychopathic killers as MPs might have had an effect.

    Then again it could be the fault of the Brits, but if the Chinese ever need advice on mural painting the money will roll in.

    It’s a craphole because they made it a craphole.

  33. Nice try Seamus, but I remember lots of ground lying idle this past thirty odd years during Adams tenure,

    Why did East Belfast get that investment? Because there was a huge amount of land with nothing on it.

    You mean no one put in a bid, and of course the fact that no local workers were working on building sites at RVH highlighted very very recently in ATN that would be because….?

    So its all the fault there are too many of us living here? Once upon a time Divis flats were built to keep all parishoners in one area, a highly criticised decision did SF ask for all the new housing stock to pack us all in to keep constituents in one area?

    No Seamus this is down to an inept political party at the helm who neither bid nor created jobs. And the council there that Feeney mentioned, I pass that office every day and it looks empty to me, waht is the point of having that if it hasn’t done what it is supposed to do?

    The question is still remaining, how many jobs have SF created or even tried to create in thirty odd years, that weren’t for themselves that is?

  34. “It’s a craphole because they made it a craphole.”


  35. And people do that. Feeney asked why there hadn’t been significant investment in West Belfast in the same way there had been in East Belfast and it is largely because there’s no bloody room.

    There is an education issue in West Belfast. 20% of the population of East Belfast have a degree, 33% in South Belfast, 12% in North Belfast and 8% in West Belfast. 70% of the people of West Belfast have less than 4 A-C GCSEs, compared to 57% in East Belfast, 37% in South Belfast and 69% in North Belfast.

  36. No. West Belfast has been the most deprived area of Northern Ireland since before Sinn Féin even existed.

  37. Well some it is self-deprivation.

    Responsibility starts with the man in the mirror.

  38. Thankyou for proving Feeney’s point, yes it was one of the most deprived and Sinn Fein rule ensured it stayed that way.

  39. And what did SF do to improve it, Seamus?

  40. So the education problem is whose fault?

  41. Very little. But they weren’t the only ones. In the SDLP’s period of dominance in West Belfast they did nothing to improve it. And neither did the Ulster Unionist Party, the Nationalist Party, the NILP or any other party who gained support her do anything about it.

  42. The education system is many people’s fault. Lack of funding, the 11+ etc etc.

  43. Feeney asked why there hadn’t been significant investment in West Belfast in the same way there had been in East Belfast and it is largely because there’s no bloody room

    Rubbish, St Louises school found land to extend, The RVH found land to extend, the housing executive and private investment found land to build homes on, from Divis street and the lower falls to almost the cutts in derriaghy…there was lots of land and disused places to bring jobs if anyone had made the effort, but no political party did. They (SFf) don’t fight their corner for their constituents here in west minister but collect the pay, and their whole emphasis on picking a new MLA was his republican credentials due to the controversy with other republicans.

    Theres no getting away from it, SF success did not roll over into one of their most safest seats.

  44. There are education problems in other areas too. It does not take away from Feeney’s central point.

  45. So the lack of funding would be a direct consequence of…..

  46. The selection process ( as a consequence of education reform on the 1940s and 50s) is the cause of thousands of Catholic GETTING educated. Why do you think Unionists opposed the reform so much?

  47. Yes its great for the top performing Catholics. But absolutely shit for the all the others. Northern Ireland has a significantly polarised education system but not between Catholic and Protestant but between the the academically gifted and non-gifted. There are some Catholics who got great educations because of the system but the overwhelming majority of Catholics in West Belfast come out with less than 4 GCSEs.

  48. Actually they don’t collect their pay. Sinn Féin MPs aren’t salaried. The fact is that the majority of the land is in small pockets and suited to small and medium sized businesses. Largely speaking politicians have little impact on those other than to set the Macroeconomic conditions. The lobbying that MPs normally do for their constituents are for large scale investment, like the Titanic Quarter.

    And Sinn Féin MPs don’t attend Parliament. That lobbying isn’t done at Parliament. It is done outside of the Chamber so the fact that Sinn Féin MPs don’t attend makes little actual difference.

  49. @Seamus 13.49

    So Seamus is it all the fault of the Bratish then?


  50. Um, I didn’t have a 13:49.

  51. Largely speaking politicians have little impact on those other than to set the Macroeconomic conditions.

    SF didn’t have any impact though Seamus

    The lobbying that MPs normally do for their constituents are for large scale investment, like the Titanic Quarter

    Shinners were left wanting in this area too Seamus. Weren’t they?

  52. sorry 14.39

  53. “SF didn’t have any impact though Seamus”

    Name me one Northern Ireland party that did?

    “Shinners were left wanting in this area too Seamus. Weren’t they?”

    And as I pointed out there isn’t the conditions in West Belfast for large scale investment projects like the Titanic Quarter.

  54. Okay. No it isn’t the fault of the British. It is the fault of the system. A system that is great for the top 25% but shit for the bottom 50%.

  55. Seamus you appear to think this is about large scale or small scale, not really its about bringing jobs, big amounts or small.

    And as I pointed out there isn’t the conditions in West Belfast for large scale investment projects like the Titanic Quarter.

    So if a large scale investment came our way it would be turned down. Funnily enough I thought I read that Attwood now he is has changed his ministerial role and his previous post is filled by a unionist, that the development for new homes in west belfast wasw under threat. Amazing they found ground for that isn’t it if there is none available. I think its a case of go get the investment and we will find the ground somewhere don’t you? Anything else is a pathetic excuse for not even trying…even the ATN were able to build new offices…

  56. And that is a problem with the system? The one that has served us so well? The one that educated and grew our civil rights leaders? Wow!

  57. SF dominate West Belfast and under their domination the depravity worsened in some measures.

  58. Have you EVER seen any evidence of this ‘industrial wage’ claim?

    Except that SF claim it to be true?

    I haven’t seen one SF yet who is not living a storied/comfortable life that is possible on an ‘industrial wage.’

  59. John Hume had a significant impact on development in Derry.

  60. It is the fault of the system.

    It’s anybody’s fault but Adams’ or SF’s right?

    There goes that victim hood stuff again….;)

  61. No but I have seen evidence of the fact that because they don’t take the Oath of Allegiance and sit in the Commons Sinn Féin MPs don’t get salaried. It isn’t because they choose not to get salaries it is that they don’t receive one.

  62. No part of it is Sinn Féin’s fault. But not all of it. Probably not even most of it.

  63. Not to mention rehabilitating the thousands upon thousands upon thousands of square footage of ruins and bombed buildings in the constituency!!!

    Land shortage- what bullshit.

  64. In 1981 unemployment in parts of West Belfast was at 30% or higher. now it it at around 9%. So it has significantly improved in some measures.

  65. Máirtín Ó Muilleoir the multi-millionaire Sinn Feiner, on the industrial wage, you understand, reported much higher unemployment in WB in 2010. Somewhere in the region of 19%. No?

  66. It’s hard to tell what the true unemployment figures are because the Government masks them. The official level in the 1980s was over 30% while the official level now is about 9%. So if the unofficial level is actually 19% what does that say about what the level of unemployment was before Sinn Féin came in?

  67. But they get tens of thousands in expenses? No? Are you really that fooled by the ‘we don’t take the queen’s bob,’ nonsense?

    How many tens of thousands do they take in expenses from the Queen?

  68. Where do your unemployment figures come from, Seamus?

  69. And by the way, how’s do one become a multi-millionaire on the industrial wage, as Máirtín Ó Muilleoir has done?

    Perhaps THAT is a strategy SF’s millionaires should share with the constituents of WB?

  70. I don’t know. I do know that Sinn Féin’s expenses were investigated by the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner and the Fees’ Office and no impropriety was found. The majority of expenses claimed by MPs, not just Sinn Féin, are for the running of offices, something that is required even if one doesn’t attend the Chamber.

  71. Party members are limited to an industrial wage from the proceeds from politics (ie the salaries they get). Máirtín Ó Muilleoir has never held a salaried position (he was previously a councillor and is currently a councillor). Thus his income comes from outside politics. The industrial wage only applies to political wages.

  72. The DEL regularly release unemployment figures.

  73. That’s NEAT trick, for a party that touts their ‘industrial wage’ nonsense in defense of so many wrongs they commit against their own communities.

  74. I believe some of the SF MP’s were amongst the highest ‘expenses claimers’ in the UK.
    Wouldn’t it be REAL interesting to know what that money goes- who are the Special Advisers on THAT payroll.

    Sinn Fein are a socialist party, is that correct?

  75. Ross – LOL.