A Morning Thought @ 1435

Brandon Sullivan ✒ In the literature available covering the Troubles, the area of sectarian murder of Protestants by Catholics has not received much in-depth attention. 

There will be a number of reasons for this, among them the reticence of republican leaders to acknowledge, let alone rationalise, sectarian murderers within their ranks.

Incidents such as Darkley and, most notoriously, Kingsmill demonstrate Catholics deliberately murdering Protestant civilians. But away from these headline grabbing incidents were scores of murders with one or two victims which, if community of perpetrator and victim were swapped, would have appeared as standard loyalist murder gang modus operandi.

I plan to look at a few of these in depth. Simply, incidents I have managed to gather together some information about that is not included in the most widely read accounts of the troubles.

South Belfast

The murder of Gerard David Turkington – 9th July, 1972

Gerald David Turkington was one of 11 people to die on the 9th July 1972. He was abducted along with another man, named in the Belfast Telegraph as Witness A in Madrid Street and brought to the Markets area of Belfast, where they were both beaten over a period of at least three hours. Witness A also had a tumbler shoved in his face. The brutal treatment meted out to these men was no different to that endured by many nationalist victims of loyalist killers. The Turkington killing stands out for a number of reasons, not least of which is that Witness A survived and gave compelling testimony to his ordeal. But it had other effects.

Turkington was a member of the UDAs “G Company” in East Belfast, and had been on “barricade duty” in East Belfast that night. A former IRA source told me that despite his membership of a loyalist organisation, Turkington’s killing led to anger within the IRA’s Belfast Brigade, which sent a high-ranking member to visit the units involved, warning them that they would be stood down if they killed any more Protestants.

In 1988, a man named Peter Anthony Burns was charged with Turkington’s murder, the attempted murder of Witness A, and a number of other IRA offences. Burns had been living in Burnley, found God, suffered psychiatric issues, and gave himself up, saying to detectives “I shot the Prod, a UDA man.” At Burns’ trial, Witness A was called, and gave testimony as he had done during the 1973 inquest. Burns was found guilty, but the conviction was overruled in 1991 on the grounds that he had been suffering from schizophrenia when interviewed.

1974, a 24 year old man named Peter Anthony Burns was sentenced to three years for arson. He, with others, in January 1972 had burned down a primary school, for what were noted might have been “sectarian reasons.” His rationale in court was that he had “had a row” with his wife. He was arrested in London and brought back to Belfast to stand trial for this action. I could not independently verify if it was the same man charged in relation to the Turkington murder.

Capturing the UDA - 1974

Another East Belfast man, Robert Ronald Trimble, was abducted by IRA members in January 1974. Trimble had entered a pub in a nationalist area and aroused the suspicions of IRA men inside it. The IRA men interrogated Trimble, who named Sammy Tweed as an active UDA man. The IRA sought permission from the IRA leadership in Belfast to kill their captive, but this was denied to them. They tried to kill him anyway, but missed. Trimble, like Witness A two years earlier, had a lucky escape.

Trimble’s naming of Tweed is interesting. Three months later, Tweed escaped from a courtroom where he was answering arms charges. He evaded capture for more than 40 years, but was finally brought before a court in 2012. He was also interviewed, in 2015, as a suspect in the 1972 torture and murder of Patrick Benstead. The Irish News reported that Tweed was a member of a gang which included Albert “Ginger” Baker and Ned McCreery, and which tortured and murdered a number of politically uninvolved Catholics in the early 1970s. The unfortunate Mr Benstead had been tortured with a red hot poker, with the number 4 branded on his back. The Irish News posited that this was a reference to the murder being committed by the “G4” unit of the UDA’s East Belfast bridge. I am unaware about whether this is true. Martin Dillon suggested that the “4” referred to Mr Benstead being the gang’s fourth victim.

A number of DUP politicians, including Peter Robinson, wrote letters in support of leniency for Mr Tweed when he was finally brought to justice for the arms possession trail he escaped from.

North Belfast

The Third Battalion’s sectarian murderers: Killers from Ardoyne.

In 1979, Ardoyne man Brendan Patrick McClenaghan was convicted of four murders, including that of Nicholas “Nick the Brit” White, a former British soldier and community activist who lived in Ardoyne, and the hapless UDA leader Sammy Smyth who opined to a room containing IRA activists that any member of the Catholic community was a legitimate target for murder. Another victim of McClenaghan was a former member of the Parachute Regiment, John Lee, who settled in Mountainview Gardens in Belfast. The 35 year old was shot dead in after leaving the Crumlin Star Social Club, in 1977.

McClenaghan was found not guilty of the murder of James Carberry, a 20 year old Protestant, who worked at the Rumford Street Loyalist Club. According to Lost Lives, on 12th July 1975, Carberry was abducted off a street and taken to the Saunders Club, in Ardoyne. McClenaghan admitted bringing Carberry to a house in Ardoyne, tying him up, and leaving him there. Either at the Saunders Club, or the house in Ardoyne, or both, Carberry was “subjected to violence” and was bound hand and foot with carpet wire, gagged, and blindfolded, before being shot twice in the head near what is now Belfast International Airport, his body being left covered with a “bullet riddled and bloodstained sportscoat.” The drive from Ardoyne to where Carberry was murdered would have taken at least 20 minutes, and it is unclear how long the ordeal he endured prior to his death lasted. A man charged with crimes related to this murder said “He was shouting something when he was on the ground. It sounded like, ‘help me.’”

Again, the brutal nature of Carberry’s demise is similar to that experienced by many nationalist victims of loyalist killers except that, arguably, loyalist murders of this type have been covered more extensively in histories of the troubles. Carberry was a member of the West Belfast UDA, where he is remembered as Jimmy Carberry.

Charged alongside McClenaghan were two other men from Ardoyne: John Joseph Todd, and Norman Patrick Basil Hardy. Along with Brendan McClanaghan, they were all members of the IRA’s Third Battalion. Norman Hardy was acquitted of the Carberry murder but, with Todd and another man named Michael Donnelly, was convicted of a heinous double sectarian murder.

Turkington and Carberry were members of the UDA. That is not to say that either were involved in sectarian actions – there is no evidence for this, though through Carberry’s employment at the Rumford Street Loyalist Club it is likely he will have known many leading loyalist paramilitaries.

In The Times newspaper, 11th November 1974, Robert Fisk wrote that there seemed to be a rise in Catholic gunmen bent on killing Protestants out of revenge. 12 days later, and following an attack on the People’s Garage in which a 20 year old Catholic woman, Geraldine Macklin was murdered, Catholic gunmen made Fisk’s words a grim reality.

The murders of Heather Thompson and George Thomas Mclean were sheer unadulterated sectarian murder. Three Ardoyne Provos went to Edenderry filling station on the Crumlin Road with murder on their minds, and shot dead the 24 year old garage manager, Mr McLean, and garage assistant Ms Thompson.

At trial, according to the Belfast Telegraph, "Hardy said that as a result of murders of Catholics he decided to carry out a retaliation and he approached two friends and told them his intentions." The report also stated that Hardy claimed the murders “had not been done on behalf of a political organisation and were not politically motivated.” Whatever the truth of this statement, it did not stop the men serving their time on the IRA blocks and wings in prison.

Heather Thompson, like John Lee, lived on Mountainview Gardens. A two minute walk away, lived James Carberry on Moutainview Parade. The Ardoyne Provos killed three people from this tiny adjacent pair of streets from 1974 to 1977. A report from December 1976 claimed that Mountainview remained a mixed area, but that people lived in fear.

Brendan McClenaghan was the subject of a “comm” sent out HMP Maze detailing a serious beating he received at the hands of prison warders. He later joined Republican Sinn Fein, and, when asked in 1999 about the possibility of Irish republican bombs going off in England said "Nothing has changed much to suggest to me that it isn't a possibility that something like that could happen again."

Norman Hardy, also known as Basil Hardy, returned to Ardoyne, where his presence was used as an excuse for the Holy Cross attacks on Catholic schoolgirls. Hardy has also been involved in community work, part of which involved cooperating, to an extent, with the PSNI about a savage attack on a member of his local community.

The Provisionals in Ardoyne seemed to be particularly active in sectarian murder in the 1970s. Other killings committed by their members will be covered in the second part, which I am working on now.

⏩ Brandon Sullivan is a middle aged, middle management, centre-left Belfast man. Would prefer people focused on the actual bad guys. 

The Sectarian Murder Of Protestants By Catholics – Part Ⅰ

Lynx By Ten To The Power Of Two Hundred And Seventeen

Steven Are 😈 Due to the sheer incompetence, indifference and lack of foresight displayed by the PUL parties in ‘Norn Iron’ I reluctantly accept absolutely no-one’s recommendation for the role of Benevolent Dictator.

First order of affairs…

1. All the so called “Peace Walls” are to be removed and the residents of both sides are just going to have to get used to it. If you don’t get used to it I will dump 10 thousand Ukrainian refugees in the area because there’s nothing quite like solving a problem by creating another, far larger one in it’s place.

2. Irish Language Act. Irish will be taught in All primary schools as a class. It will be entirely optional in Secondary education. Some kids will have an aptitude for it and some won’t. This will stop the nonsense of making language a political weapon and allowing the kids to pursue it if they choose will stop it being shoved down their throats.

3. Education up to and including University will be free. No bollocks “Gender Studies” or other woke nonsense will be considered a worthy subject and not allowed to be taught.

4. Healthcare will be properly funded via taxation of corporate profits. Businesses don’t like it? Others will take your place. Pay your fair share, arse wipes!

5. Protocol? Shove it up your yer hole. Let Norn Iron take advantage of it’s unique spot by being a strategic staging post between the EU and the rest of the UK. There’s jobs to be created here, and taxation for the rest of my diktats!

66 Historical justice? Amnesty across the board. Let’s see who knew what and when. There will be no prosecutions and I know both sides will feel hard done by but Both Sides Will Feel Hard Done By. Suck it up and get over it. Looking backwards means you walk into things.

7. Parades? Not on the bloody streets you don’t. I’m sick of the mess you lot leave behind whether it’s the 12th or St Patrick's Day. If you act like children you’ll be treated like children. Consequently I’m shifting parades to a suitable area in the country side where you can bang your drums all you like. None Of You Get To Leave Before You Clean Up After Yourselves.

8. All Churches and faith based groups to have tax free status immediately removed. Howl all you want, you lot have created enough shit in the six counties for long enough.

9. Any day over 25oC is a public holiday. But for crying out loud keep your clothes on. Nobody wants to see a sea of fat verandas on the way to get cheap booze and an inflatable pool at Lidl’s. Anybody caught wearing a teeshirt hanging out of their shorts will be kneecapped.

10. On Mother’s Day all the Mums get one thousand pounds. I may be a Dictator but even I’m scared of the Mums and there telepathic abilities to know us inside out!

That is All 

General Mayhem.

Steven Are is a Belfast quiller now living in Australia.

Benevolent Dictator


A Morning Thought @ 1434

A Couple of Europhiles ✒ interview our favorite Irish couple.

Carrie and Anthony are great company, freethinkers and they have a thing or two to say about the recent elections in Northern Ireland where Sinn Fein has achieved a historic majority.

It’s a pleasure to hear their perspective and I think you’ll enjoy Anthony’s lovely accent.

Carrie and Anthony McIntyre are writers and researchers living in Ireland. Carrie is an American who has lived in Ireland for 20 years. She was the former editor for The Blanket, an online journal that analysed the peace process. Anthony is a former IRA prisoner and author of Good Friday The Death of Irish Republicanism.

⏩Follow Carrie and Anthony on Twitter @AnthonyMcIntyre.

Bailey Alexander is An American living in Piemonte. Sailed across the Atlantic aboard our 43 Nauticat in 2002 and spent over a decade living in Rome, Paris, Prague, Malta, Venice and Bucharest before settling in Piemonte, Italia. View more posts.

The Carrie And Anthony McIntyre Interview ✑ Historic NI Elections 2022

Lynx By Ten To The Power Of Two Hundred And Sixteen

Christopher Owens  🔖 It’s quite chilling to report that, whenever I began to formulate this review, noted American melodic death metal act The Black Dahlia Murder announced that frontman Trevor Strnad had died at the age of 41. 

Although no cause of death was listed, a number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline ended the post, leaving us in little doubt as to what had happened.

While stories about suicide, drug overdoses and nasty behaviour are ten a penny in the music world, the last twenty odd years have seen the revenue dry up for bands/artists, meaning that they must stay on the road 200 odd days of the year to survive financially. As a result, tales like the ones listed above take on a more gruelling, sordid connotation. After all, you can maybe put up with 200 odd days if you knew you were guaranteed a bucketload of money. But when it’s to make £10,000, the façade of fun quickly evaporates.

And there are fewer people better placed to see that than Ian Winwood.

A journalist most noted for his times in Kerrang (where he once asked the then Arch Enemy singer Angela Gossow if she’d had plastic surgery), NME (where readers started a Get Rid of Winwood campaign after a less than favourable Idlewild interview) among others, Winwood was in a prime position as a journalist to see the peak of the CD era (with all of the excess) before watching it slowly reduce to what it is now. He also appears to have had quite a good stab at drinking Camden dry and trying every drug under the sun. Hunter S. Thompson would be proud!

But, as everyone knows, the greater the party the greater the comedown.

Part memoir, part examination of the industry and part self-help guide, Bodies is (alongside the recently published Exit Stage Left: The Curious Afterlife of Pop Stars) an attempt to diagnose why a seeming endless array of musicians, at best, struggle with mental health issues and, at worst, why they take their own lives.

In many ways, it’s a perfect storm: creative types are normally prone to feeling like they don’t “fit in” in some shape or form, and so create in order to fill (or get over) that gap. When a record company comes along and offers a contract (these days normally a 360 deal where the label has a stake in and a slice of the income from all possible sources such as recording, song publishing, merchandising and gig performance fee), the chance to make a living from music as well as having people listen to what you have to say, is all too enticing.

Unfortunately, the reality is often very different. With royalties normally being zero (unless your album hits it big), tour costs eating up potential profits (such as venues taking a percentage of merch profits), endless amounts of free booze and having to live in a cramped bus for most of the year, is it any wonder musicians suffer with their mental health?

To illustrate this, consider the following excerpt from the book:

On a mission to furnish her life with useless information, I trace a line along the side of the bus where the corridor of coffin-like bunks separate the two communal areas at the front and rear of the top deck. I describe the plasma-screen television, Formica table and cul-de-sac settee in the always popular back lounge. Down a ninety-degree staircase stands a surprisingly spacious kitchen area; adjacent to a second exit, and at its rear you’ll find a lone toilet … Looking at the one-way windows … my fiancée says, ‘I think I’d go mad if I lived on that thing.’ 

Out of the mouths of babes, as they say.

Winwood draws upon his career interviewing the likes of Biffy Clyro, Frank Turner and Creeper while discussing the insidious machinations of the industry, how it (at best) downplays questionable behaviour and (at worst) enables such behaviour by creating circumstances that can lead to self-destruction.

The segment involving Lostprophets is utterly chilling and quite an eye-opener. Once a big selling band in Europe and America, singer Ian Watkins was convicted for possessing child pornography and the sexual assault of children (including a one-year-old) in 2013, bringing the band’s career to an end. While the other members (and Winwood) maintain that they had no idea of what Watkins was up to, Lostprophets find themselves in a similar situation to Gary Glitter’s Glitter Band: their music is never played on the radio, suggested by streaming services or written about on its own merit.

In this section, Winwood paints Watkins as a charismatic chameleon type who can make people believe what they want. Throw in fame, drugs, ego and a disintegrating band and it becomes a car crash in slow motion. What is illuminating is hearing the bandmembers speak, not just from the perspective of someone who will never make a penny off their old band’s music, but also someone who survived the rigmarole of the industry before having the carpet pulled from under them. There is shock at Watkins’ crimes, anger that what they had worked towards is now gone, resentment at how it played out and a struggle to come to terms with all of this.

By contrast, Biffy Clyro (3 UK Number One albums, covered by an X-Factor winner) managed to survive desperate circumstances at a professional cost. Frontman Simon Neil suffered an alcoholic breakdown due to family issues and pressure from the record company to succeed in America. In order to get better, the band were forced to cancel the American tour which they now speculate cost them dearly in the eyes of the record company. Even though the health and wellbeing of their singer was at risk.

As well as this, Winwood examines the effects drugs and alcohol have had on him, as well as the trauma of his father’s accidental death, which culminates in a half-hearted suicide attempt. Some of the tales are hilarious, but the descent into addiction is all too real and, once again, enabled by a culture where reviewing gigs mean a few pints beforehand and interviewing bands might mean getting a line of speed afterwards. When this happens four times a week, you can see how addictions can develop.

Sober, thoughtful and provocative reading. 

Ian Winwood, 2022, Bodies! Life and Death In Music. Faber & Faber. ISBN-13: 978-0571364183

⏩ Christopher Owens was a reviewer for Metal Ireland and finds time to study the history and inherent contradictions of Ireland. He is currently the TPQ Friday columnist. 



A Morning Thought @ 1433

Matt Treacy Once again the shining star of European left-liberalism has proven that when the vital interests of it’s country’s citizens are at stake that they are willing to ignore the wailing of the NGOs and extremists.

On Wednesday this week, Denmark announced a deal with Kosovo for that country to take 300 non-Danish prisoners in order to reduce the demands on the Danish prison system whose population has increased by 20% since 2015. Much of that increase has been driven by increased crime and convictions by and of first and second generation immigrants.

Already by 2015, around 40% of the prison population of over 4,000 was not ethnically Danish. At that time, non-ethnic Danes were four times as likely to be convicted as Danes. Of course, many on the left ascribe this to racism rather than recognise the reality that serious crime in Denmark is more prevalent among some, but not all, immigrant communities.

Of particular concern has been the steadily rising number of rapes, which are relatively high for a country that does not or has not had a major history of violent crime. In 2015, the rate of reported rapes in Denmark was 18.5 per 100,000 compared to 11.5 in Ireland. Many rapes are not reported and the estimates for both Denmark and Ireland vary.

Some of that has to do with the culture of certain immigrant communities in which an unquantifiable number of rapes and other crimes are not reported to the authorities, because of lack of trust in the police and other issues. The proportion of rapes that are brought to court committed by non Danish nationals is substantially out of line with the country’s demographics. This is similar to Sweden where 58% of convicted rapists were born outside of Sweden.

Amnesty International published a report in 2019 on what it described as Denmark’s “pervasive rape culture” without highlighting the clear link between younger male immigrants from certain countries and that culture. The clash between open European societies and its respect for human rights including the basic rights of women and children and gay people is stark. Ireland too, has experience of this

There are some other interesting comparisons between Ireland and Denmark. The 300 prisoners to be sent to Kosovo, along with others who will remain in Denmark, have had deportation orders made against them when their sentences are served. Here of course, we have the situation where such orders are as rare as hen’s teeth and strongly challenged by the liberal legal sector, and where people who have been told to leave the country when they are released are left to do so voluntarily. And as Gript has shown, some do not.

The prison population here is close to the overall rate of incarceration in Denmark for a similarly sized population. However, while Denmark’s prison population has steadily grown, the Irish prison system reported fewer sentenced prisoners in 2020 mostly due to a planned release of 500 inmates between March and June 2020, so that they would be less likely to get Covid. Indeed.

It is difficult to get statistics on non-national prisoners in Ireland. I have sent several Freedom of Information requests that have not been answered in relation to what was asked – such as the numbers of prisoners from other countries sentenced in Ireland who have convictions in other countries.

The 2020 annual report of the Irish Prison Service stated that 23.2% of the prison population were “non-nationals.” This is not only out of proportion to the supposed % of the population that is non-national, but probably does not count prisoners who have successfully attained Irish citizenship, although that is something that we do not know for certain.

Meanwhile our own justice authorities might look at Denmark as a model of how to address such problems, especially given that Denmark and its ruling social democratic party are usually the exemplars of what our own liberal-left admire and attempt to emulate in so many other respects.

Matt Treacy has published a number of books including histories of 
the Republican Movement and of the Communist Party of Ireland. 

Denmark To Send Foreign Criminals To Prison In Kosovo

Lynx By Ten To The Power Of Two Hundred And Fifteen

Caoimhin O’Muraile ⚽ As Man Utd engineer yet another abysmal season we await the arrival of the new man at the helm, Erik Ten Hag. 

A relatively unknown from Ajax Amsterdam who guided the team to win the Eredivisie, Dutch League Champions, so we await in anticipation for his arrival. On a brighter note the under 18s at United won the FA Youth Cup in front of over 67,000 fans at Old Trafford on Wednesday 11th May. This attendance beats by a distance the crowds attracted by all so-called Premier League clubs, bar the Man Utd first team. Perhaps instead of spending millions on player the new man should look a little closer to home. The result was Manchester United under 18s 3 Nottingham Forrest 1.

It is the past managers I want to look at in this article, who was the greatest? To many younger fans the answer will be a no brainer, Alex Ferguson. However, if trophies alone are the measure of greatness, then yes, Ferguson takes it by a mile, winning 38 trophies at United, but is winning silverware the only factor? It certainly helps because a person who wins nothing cannot be considered great or even good. Tommy Docherty, for me a potential candidate but that is all, “potential.” If he had stayed longer after the hammering of Liverpool at Wembley 1977 who knows what he might, might being the operative word, have achieved? He did not stay, due to personal issues, so cannot be considered despite producing some great football. The only other candidate to rival, and in my view beats, Alex Ferguson is the late great Matt Busby.

In 1945 Matt Busby took over the reins of a club operating out of a bombsite due to the grounds close proximity to the docks making it a target for the Luftwaffe during the war. Busby at his interview told the directors who interviewed him he wanted “full control over all team matters, who he signed and who he sold, he picks the team” and they basically keep their noses out. They must judge him on results and results alone. His office was a shed behind the Stretford Paddock, one of the few stands still in a reasonable state, and the team played for a while at Maine Road, home of rivals Manchester City.

Within three years Busby had won the FA Cup beating the then powerful Blackpool 4-2 at Wembley. All this in three years from a bombsite. United’s crowds while playing at Maine Road were higher than those of their hosts, Man City! As we moved from the forties to the fifties Matt began rebuilding again. The aging FA Cup winning side, great players like Johnny Carey, Stan Pearson, John Aston Senior, and Jimmy Delaney were aging though still had much to offer in bringing the first generation of youngsters through. In 1951-52 season Matt Busby won the first of his five league titles winning again 1955-56, 56-57, 64-65 and 1966-67. After winning the league in 1955-56 Matt Busby did the unthinkable by defying league supremo, Alan Hardaker, who took over the role of League President in 1957, Busby decided his United would enter the newly formed European Champions Cup. Chelsea who won the league in 1954-55 lacked the bottle to take the league on and therefore missed out on the chance to become England’s first representatives in the competition. That honour went a year later to Manchester United.

After winning the league again in 1956-57, the first back-to-back, United entered the competition for the second season in the 1957-58 season. After securing a semi-final spot by beating Red Star Belgrade disaster struck at Munich Airport returning from Belgrade. As most football fans will be aware what happened was a tragedy with most of the team destroyed at Munich. Even with a weakened side United gave semi-final opponents, Milan, a good go. Alas the Italians were too strong for the make shift United side. But for Munich I, and many others, believe we would have beaten the mighty Real Madrid in the final. It is all if, buts and maybes, we will never know. Real Madrid, the winners, as a gesture and a nice gesture at that, wanted to give United the trophy that year in recognition of the Munich tragedy but the rules would not allow it but the thought was what counted. 

After the crash Matt Busby received the last rites of the Roman Catholic Church, twice. He was close to death on both occasions. Great players like Duncan Edwards, Liam Whelan, Tommy Taylor and more perished at Munich. The flowers of English football who, it was expected would dominate not only the domestic scene but that of European football for the next decade, were no more! Matt Busby survived and returned to his managerial duties where he stated, “it will take five years before we are among the silverware again.” And how right he was. Five years to the season after his Munich ordeal, Man Utd were back in the FA Cup final at Wembley, the first game played under an all-covered Wembley stadium, beating Leicester City 3-1, two goals from David Herd and one from new signing from Torino, Denis Law. This was Matt Busby’s fourth great team he had built since taking over in 1945, less than twenty years previous. In 1965 United took the league again and again in 1967. Less than ten years after the Munich Air Disaster United, under Matt Busby’s stewardship, had moved mountains. In 1968 Matt achieved what, to him, was the Holy Grail, the European Cup - becoming the first English side to do so. The first to enter back in the fifties and ten years after Munch the first to win it.

Matt Busby retired in 1969 a tired man and, after all he had been through, who could blame him? He built five great teams, one of the finest stadiums, even then, in England if not Britain and all this against all the odds. He was knighted in 1968 after the European Cup destruction of Benfica and received a Papal Knighthood, “Knight of the Order of Saint Greggory the Great,” one of the highest un-ordained awards in the Roman Catholic Church in 1972. Pope Paull VI awarded Matt this which, to him, trumped his knighthood from the British Queen. There was nothing personal in this preference but Busby was a devout Roman Catholic. Five league titles, two FA Cups and the big one the European Cup, plus five Charity Shields, and, as I said, against overwhelming odds! 

On now to Alex Ferguson.

In 1986 Alex Ferguson arrived at old Trafford from Aberdeen where he built a side capable of challenging the hegemony of Celtic and Rangers. Under Ferguson the team won the European Cup Winners Cup in 1983 and his credentials were perfect. Matt Busby, now moved upstairs at Old Trafford, influenced the decision to appoint Ferguson, he once again was not wrong. Ferguson's first four years in charge at Old Trafford showed little promise. In fact, arguably, he was due for the sack according to some, if United had not won the FA Cup in 1989-90. Some say it was a Mark Robbins goal in an away cup tie at Nottingham Forrest which saved Fergusons job. Today, no doubt in what passes for Association football Alex would have been “down the road” and United would have remained in the doldrums of English football. Thankfully a certain amount of sanity still prevailed in the game in those days, before big business really moved in and fucked the game right up, and as a result of this level headedness Alex Ferguson survived.

Man Utd won the FA Cup in 1989-90 and the following season lifted the now defunct, regrettably, European Cup Winners Cup. The road to glory was now underway as from 1992-93 until Alex Ferguson's retirement in 2013 Manchester United won thirteen league titles (so-called premier Leagues). Couple this with the previous seven titles and United have a total of twenty, a record which still stands. Ferguson once said his ambition was to “knock Liverpool off their perch” and he certainly did that. Under Alex Ferguson United lifted the coveted treble in 1999 (on what would have been Matt Busby’s 90th birthday), something still to this day unmatched in the English game: that being the Premier League, FA Cup and European Cup. The nearest before this to any team doing the treble was Liverpool in 1977, stopped at Wembley by none other than Manchester United! In 2008 United lifted the European Cup for a third time in Moscow beating Chelsea on penalties, not ideal, far from it, but a win all the same. In his time Ferguson also lifted four League Cups, something Matt Busby never achieved, though in fairness the competition only came into being in 1961. In 2013 Ferguson retired satisfied he had done all he could, which nobody could deny, and knocked “Liverpool off their perch”. Since then, it has been downhill for Man Utd, though under Jose Mourinho they did lift the UEFA Cup and another League Cup, something most clubs would have been delighted with. Under Lou Van Gall we won the FA Cup, then the Dutchman was sacked. Fucking ridiculous, sacked for winning the second most prestigious trophy, after the league, in the game!

As I said at the beginning, if greatness is calculated on trophies alone then Alex Ferguson wins it by a distance, though Matt did have his share of silverware. The difference is, Matt Busby was a pioneer, he pioneered English club’s entry into the European Cup defying Alan Hardaker and the Football League. He secured FA support for this venture, and that organisation's President, Stanley Rouse, supported Busby’s quest. Against all the odds following Munich when he lost arguably and certainly potentially, the greatest ever English team known as the “Busby Babes” he masterminded another great team of the sixties, this time built around Bobby Charlton, George Best and Denis Law. He took over at Old Trafford using a wooden shed as his office. He made it clear to the board who was in charge of all team affairs, him, something again at the time considered radical. Neither Matt Busby or Alex Ferguson would have, I do not believe, this rubbish today of having a Director of Football over them, undermining their authority as team managers.

Matt Busby once commented, “if the interests of business ever take precedence over football”, then the game would be in a bad state. I wonder what the great man would make of today’s pantomime!! None of the great managers of the past would stand for this nonsense, Busby, Shankly, Clough, Ferguson and Stein none of them would have put up with it.

It is my contention, and no disrespect to Alex Ferguson who was beyond doubt a great manager, that due to everything stacked against him from day one Matt Busby remains Manchester United’s greatest manager. I do not judge greatness on trophies alone, though they are important, but other factors come into play and Matt overcame so much and fought the authorities so hard to get Man Utd into the European Cup which paved the way for others to follow that he takes the mantle. The grandson of Irish immigrants who fled the famine in Ireland he climbed to the pinnacle of football management. Perhaps his proudest private moment was his Papal Knighthood by Pope Paul VI in 1972.

Matt Busby died on 20th January 1994, aged 84, and it was one of the largest funerals Manchester has ever seen. I was there myself and what a poignant day, memories of my childhood flooded back. I was fortunate enough to see the latter end of the Busby era, in fact to be honest it was just after he’d retired but it was still Matt's team. Having seen Busby’s side and Fergusons play, live not on tele, I am hard pushed to draw a winner. Perhaps Matt Busby’s team of the sixties would clinch it, due in no small part to their European success and the way they did it. Alex Ferguson still attends matches at Old Trafford today, and some away games, I wonder what he is really thinking deep inside?

Caoimhin O’Muraile is Independent 
Socialist Republican and Marxist

Who Was Manchester United’s Greatest Manager?


A Morning Thought @ 1432