Not Here To Be Tolerated

It is an odious occurrence that a former republican prisoner who is currently a writer has had his home laid siege to in West Belfast. Tim Brannigan was not subject to attack because he had served time or by people opposed to what he actually writes – they might not even be able to read, such is their penchant for the Neanderthal lifestyle. He was targeted because he is black. His home was bricked and bottled while abuse about his skin colour was vented by a gathering of purportedly bonfire revellers but who were not outside his house for the purpose of revelling, but for that of reviling the black man inside.

Had the mob thought about it, they might have noticed the parallels between themselves and the images and footage of others attired with white robes and hoods as they on occasion amassed outside the homes of black families in the southerly states of the USA. Then they are probably not the type given to thinking and maybe if they were they would regard it as something to be proud of, seeing themselves as the Continuity KKK or something. 

The PSNI are treating it as a hate crime, something Brannigan is adamant about, stating that his home was attacked by "thugs and racists". What else is it other than a hate crime? What else are the attackers other than thugs and racists? 

The attack went on for three hours which has to raise questions about the deficiency in service of policing that is being delivered to the area. It also seems incredible that given the concentration of former republican prisoners in West Belfast, regardless of where their allegiances now lie or what groups they are aligned to - or none - they appear to have been unable to band together and defend the Brannigan home from racist attack. 

It is galling to think that anybody is subject to that type of prejudice and hate, made more stinging for former republican prisoners to rue that one of their own number from the days of the H Blocks is not safe from racist attack in the heart of West Belfast. It resonates jarringly of Nazi gangs attacking Jewish people in Israel.

It is facile to explain away violence against people dismissed as ‘foreigners” as something only loyalist communities have a penchant for. Nationalist areas are not, as Brannigan observed, without their own virulence.

My own nationalist and republican community has a healthier attitude. More progressive and open-minded, I would suggest, but by no means is it unblemished.

In the same piece, five years ago, written for the Guardian, Brannigan gave an indication that West Belfast is not some racism-free paradise.

I was born in Belfast and I am black. I endured a barrage of racist abuse over decades from British soldiers and the police. With a Falls Road upbringing in a republican family and a seven-year jail term spent in the H-Blocks during the 1990s, I'd have thought my bona fides as an Irishman were pretty impeccable. To this day, though, the question I hear most is: "Where are you from?" When I tell people I'm from Belfast, they invariably throw in the supplementary: "Where are you really from?" There's no way an Irish person could possibly be black is the unspoken subtext.

What happened at the weekend is a despicable act of racist violence against a black guy in West Belfast. There is no other way to see it. As Tim Brannigan rightly points out he is a card carrying member of the West Belfast community, he is “not here to be tolerated.”

Tim Brannigan is author of Where Are You Really From?


  1. Disgusting to hear of this happening to anyone especially an ex prisoner. And for it to be coming from anti internment bonfire attendees is even more disgraceful. It would be horrible if youth in republican areas became as racist as those from loyalist communities.

  2. The black Irish author and republican ex-prisoner Tim Brannigan tells William Crawley how his home in west Belfast sustained a three-hour attack on Saturday night, with bricks and bottles raining down, and youths yelling racist abuse simply because he has raised concerns about their bonfire.

  3. I think I heard of this guy.
    He was on the Radio BBC radio 4.
    IIRC his mother was a nurse who had an affair with a Doctor from Africa.
    And the husband raised him as his own.
    On the programme he told about tracking down his father and how in Belfast he was asked to store some gear in an Alfa Romeo which was broken down on his driveway.
    I hope this is the right story.
    I think he is an interesting character. with a heart warming story.
    To hear about the abuse been inflicted on him makes me angry indeed.
    anybody who is familiar with his story would be ashamed to be associated with the thugs who did this.

  4. Thanks for the link Frankie. I just listened to it and Tim was more magnanimous than I would be about the racists who attacked his house. However, he has a point and I regret being so virulent in my description of the perpetrators in a way.

    Many parts of the North are left behind. There are prosperous parts but West Belfast, Sandy Row, Tigers Bay as Tim said have been ignored by the kind hand of peace. In a way that has worn down the youth and the older generation also.

    In a way West Belfast may have been stronger during the Troubles. Not worth bringing them back. But certainly worth the discussion about going forward that Tim talked about.

    (The link is well worth listening to. He says the cops were there within minutes of being called but that was unclear from much of the media coverage.)

  5. Simon,

    that it went on for three hours seemed ominous.

  6. B'Jazus there are racist bigots inthe CNR community? Who'd have thunk it? I thought repubicans lived on a higher plane of consciousness from us PULs. Next they'll be tellin' me that there be sectarian bigots in the ranks too.

  7. Peter, There are obviously racists on both sides- bigotry makes no allowance for status of the ignorant. However, in this case the youths weren't Republican. Tim explained that they targeted him in part for his Republicanism in the past as they are hoods who see the IRA as an authority of a sort. That doesn't take away from the racism of the perpetrators.

    Many of those out at Anti-Internment bonfires would be apolitical and in fact many are hoods who despise Republicanism. It's purely the chance to have a party.

    As for sectarian bigots. Of course there are. Some don't even see themselves as sectarian. Are there any non-sectarian loyalists? Any loyalists who supported the loyalist campaign driven as it was, in their words, to target a civilian Catholic population to put pressure on the IRA to stop?

  8. Simon
    I was being (crudely) facetious. It just gets ridiculous when loyalists show their prejudice republicans are quick to condemn as if they are somehow morally superior. I used to work with a bhoyo from Kilwilkie and a fouler mouthed racist you would struggle to find. Whether it be torture, murder, sectarianism, injustice etc republicans are quick to condemn it in Brit/loyalism but are as guilty, if not more guilty, themselves.

  9. B'Jazus there are racist bigots inthe CNR community? Who'd have thunk it?

    Yeah Peter..There 's a whole website dedicated to the fact the Orangism/ Unionism and Loyalism is sectarian to the core and Xenophobic to boot...And that's just the good points.
    The website tries to drag themuns down to their level...It's called slugger O Toole.
    You mustn't have received the memo ( check ur inbox ) that the Unionist Struggle had a strategy meeting and this is the result.

    Some people will be delighted and excited at such a move.
    Others will think the unionism must have absolutely totally bankrupted itself if that's where it's at.

    enjoy the "victory"...Your side is doing well.