The News Letter puzzles me in a couple of ways. One puzzling thing is its swanky new office suite behind City Hall – ostentatiously swanky, in fact, for a paper that’s rapidly going down the tubes. The other puzzling thing is the actual content of the paper since Darwin Templeton took over as editor.
Darwin, if you recall, was the wunderkind, the crack hack from the Sun, the man who would turn the ailing News Letter around. But while the old News Letter was coolly partisan – a sort of Orange equivalent of the Morning Star – the new paper is distinguished, quite obviously so in our New Dispensation, by a slide into gibbering incoherence. It reads like, let’s be honest, a Tory boy’s idea of what mad loyalists would like to read. Hence the screeching headlines on the front page, over reports of something Willie McCrea said in an Orange Hall last night. To be frank, I’d prefer a paper written by mad loyalists.
The paper’s response to events at Carnoustie is a case in point. There was a huge splash on our golfing hero – not Pádraig Harrington, but Norn Iron’s Rory McIlroy, who came forty-second and won the silver medal for highest-placed amateur. Well done to young Rory, by the way. And at the end of the article, a tiny sentence mentioning that, oh yes, an Irishman won the Open. You know, an Irishman from that foreign state next door. Now, if mad loyalists were running the News Letter, they would have splashed on Harrington. Loyalists, after all, love their golf, none more so than UDA emperor Jackie McDonald, who when visiting Áras an Uachtaráin likes to squeeze in a round with President McAleese’s consort.
Which brings me to the loyalist feud sweeping the badlands of Larne and Carrick, between Jackie’s “good” UDA and Tommy Millions’ renegade South East Antrim brigade, the latter augmented by the Shoukri gang from North Belfast. Two images stood out, as the very public faces of armed loyalism sought to project a good image. One faction doing a Reservoir Prods-style formation saunter across a Larne car park, which unfortunately made them look like the gangsters they are. And the other faction all dressed up in green blazers, looking for all the world as if they’d just come off the links.
Maybe this explains the supine response of the RUC. No doubt our police force was under the impression that this was just a dispute between two rather boisterous golf clubs.