Village Mentality

Not long ago we read of a vicious sectarian attack in the Village area of South Belfast. A teenager was set upon by a hate filled mob, beaten and left for dead. One of the attackers was reported as having said ‘that’s enough I think he he’s dead.’ Maybe we should read into that some form of moral restraint: an appeal to those in the mob who felt that death wasn’t enough and that maybe the body was in need of some form of desecration. Perhaps they were of a mind to take it to a local club where it could be placed on display like a trophy for the drooling drunks to slaver over.  Margaret Wright was beaten and shot to death in a band hall not too far away so that Ulster would not surrender. 

Bob Stoker, an Ulster Unionist councillor, claimed the attack was absolutely despicable: 

I think it is nothing short of wanton thuggery and these people have to be dealt with by the community, by the police and by the court system. They are in no way representative of this community. We need people to stand up and have the courage to say, 'I saw them doing it and I'm going to identify them'. The community will be completely in support of anybody who does this.

I wouldn’t be too sure about that. One woman amazingly complained about James Turly being beaten in her garden and demanded that the mob get him out. Beat him somewhere else dears but not in my garden please. They duly obliged and took him to an alleyway.

In my primary school days I used to spend summers in the Village with my grandmother who lived in Glenmachen Street. It was the street closest to the M1 Motorway. It was while sauntering along the side of the motorway around the age of five with someone else whose identity I no longer remember that I was first ‘arrested’. A cop took us to my grandmother’s home for being so close to a road closed off to pedestrians, particularly ones so young. But my real memory of the Village was the naked sectarianism I experienced there. There were plenty of good neighbours but the young lads of around my own age who hated with biblical intensity stand out in my memory. On more than one occasion I was beaten by people whose names I still remember. I wondered where they got their hatred from; if there was a factory in Benburb Street, where one of my assailants lived, which churned out hate as easily as Kennedy’s Dairy in nearby Tate’s Avenue produced bottled milk.

Of course it is not only Catholics that certain denizens of the Village spew their hate towards. People of foreign origin do not seem welcome there either. Age is no defence against hatred. That terrible lesson has been absorbed at great cause down through the centuries.

The Village was a source of many happy memories. That was before Jimmy, Fat Colin and their gang discovered that I was a ‘Fenian.’ After that the joys of exploring the Bog Meadows was never the same. Trips to the shop for sweets unless accompanied by an adult were a tense experience. Even journeying to adjoining Lecale Street was not without trepidation. Tavanagh Street shop was off limits. My orientation was outwards and towards the other side of the M1 where wall murals of King Billy were non-existent and it was well away from Frenchpark Street and its associated misery. Nothing there to proclaim 'This we shall maintain.'

Seems the Village mentality is as entrenched as ever.


  1. Mark,

    I don't agree. There was no attempt to characterise the community. In fact it was a reference to 'certain denizens'. There has been a history of racism in the area that does not seem as pronounced as elsewhere. And then personal experience plays a part in the narrative. Trends such as those described do exist and we should recognise them where they do.

  2. I had a mate who was beaten to death with an axe and his body left in an alleyway next to the M1 and another lad a brother of another mate his body was dumped in the same alleyway,the village area was a stomping ground for the mindless bigots who rushed to Ulsters defense against their neighbours whose slum houses were every bit as run down as theirs,and who asked for nothing more than equal rights whose hatered was fueled by Paisley,Beattie, Mc Crea,and Bradford all men of god,who not one lived in the slum they came from,for their loyality the village is being bulldozed and its fair to say that more than a few taigs now own and let out quite a few of those properties that are now left,the village area will be rebuilt but it will be occupied by people from many countries and like the Shankill the village will just be a memory,a bad one at that,

  3. Mark,

    again this is to attribute something to the article that was not there; that the Village is a standalone experience. That was neither implicit nor explicit. It very much relates to my personal experience of the area. And my personal experience gels with what happened to the kid from the Strand who was beaten there while filming. If other areas are as bad let it be brought out. I was beaten in East Belfast and Sandy Row as well on the grounds that I was a 'Fenian.' But I have a very specific memory of the Village.

  4. Mark what irks me about the communities in the Village Shankill and other loyalist working class areas is their willingness to engage in naked sectarianism and belong to sectarian organisations such as the loyal orders I know that this does not apply to the whole of these communities but rather a sizeable majority, these communities suffered the same deprivation chronic overcrowding bad health etc as did their nationalist neighbours ,yet when inroads were made on working class issues ,the unionst gentry rattled the orange drum and these people generation after generation jumped to do their masters bidding without the slightest hesitation ,Bombay st etc,David Irvines remark of just returning the serve re the Dublin and Monaghan bombings was a disgrace and this was a socialist/loyalist how could you get the two into the one suit is beyond me,the people of those areas need to take a hard look at the role they and their fathers played in keeping this rotten little statelet alive ,

  5. Mark,

    'village mentality' was a play on a long existing phrase. Had it have been east belfast or Shankill the term 'Shankill mentality' would not have worked.

    Moreover, we don't know the exact extent to which any community is racist or sectarian in terms of the numbers in it who subscribe to the views. But the Village had managed to produce its fair share of violent activities on racist grounds including the targetting of Roma children a few weeks old.

    I would like to think every community is not the same. I don't believe for example that Holy Cross would have happened in any loyalist community. I would guess it could quite easily happen in the Village.

  6. I happen to work in loyalist areas all over Belfast, for going on 16 years. Simple fact that in the village, I still feel my " sectarian awareness antena" triggering. More than in Ballybeen, New Mossley, even the Shankill Road these days.
    I would be aware of people trying to suss my religion out, at times quite up front, moreso in the village.
    I suppose when Ruth Patterson, DUP representative for the area, wont even shake hands with the Sinn Fein mayor, wrong signals are given to the young people of the village.
    Sectarianism is quite different to pure thuggery, god knows many Nationalist areas are cursed with it, ie; recent car jackings.
    Representatives of the village should lead by example...

  7. Feargal,

    I prefer your more nuanced approach to one that does not distinguish between communities and what is indigenous to them in a specific sense. The one size fits all only works at a certain explanatory level. I don't buy into the notion that all communities are the same and one is no worse or better than any other. I guess even the term community is shorthand and always ignores variations lying underneath.

  8. Don't forget Rob Mc Cartney and Paul Quinn. An inconvenient truth !

  9. Im an Irish student from Donegal and have been offered a place for my masters in Queens. I also found a lovely house on Frenchpart I would love to move into. Is it possible for me to do so and feel safe?

  10. Michael,

    I would not consider it safe move.