Lionel Shriver, The UFF Mug and British Terrorism In Ireland

The left-leaning Guardian newspaper in Britain seems to have a bit of a myopic soft spot for its former columnist, Lionel Shriver. Despite her recent echoing of opinions and rhetoric more readily associated with the fellow-travellers of the ultra-right, the publication continues to offer the controversial American author and occasional feature writer regular PR opportunities. Of course, Shriver’s wayward politics long predate her now frequent criticism of behaviours she views as onerously liberal or “politically correct”. She has been obsessed with the issue of immigration and multiculturalism since the early 2000s, unsurprisingly supporting the isolationist cause of Brexit or the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the multinational European Union.

The daughter of a Presbyterian minister, the North Carolinian emigrated to Belfast in 1987, during the latter part of the so-called Troubles, the three decade conflict in the shrunken remnant of the United Kingdom’s historical colony on the island of Ireland. She spent some twelve years living near the city’s affluent Lisburn Road, an area later marred by anti-immigrant violence. At the time she made no bones about her sympathy for the lost cause of British unionism in the country, becoming an enthusiast for the deeply conservative values of the pro-union minority and a staunch critic of Irish republicanism and the nascent peace process of the 1990s and early 2000s.

Indeed Shriver became so enamoured of northern “loyalism” that at times it seemed to make her oblivious to the import of her own actions. In 2013 she appeared in a publicity photo for Britain’s right-wing Daily Mail newspaper with a carefully placed mug beside her, printed with the name and logo of the Ulster Freedom Fighters (aka. the Ulster Defence Association). For those readers who are unaware of the organisation, the UFF-UDA is a pro-UK terrorist group in the contested Six Counties which took the lives of hundreds of Irish men, women and children during the course of the 1966-2005 war. Such memorabilia is usually sold to help fund its activities and subsidise its gunmen and bombers, past or present. While the sight of such an item in the American writer’s home drew much online comment in Ireland, it was largely ignored by the London media, most of which views armed unionist gangs not as “terrorists” but as “paramilitaries”.

Unfortunately, its seems that the Guardian falls into that morally-flexible category of British journalism, where people who kill in defence of the United Kingdom are less reprehensible than those who kill in opposition to the United Kingdom. Regardless of the origins of the UFF-UDA mug in Lionel Shriver’s possession, or her own well-known and frequently stated condemnation of all politically-motivated violence, to pose with the item, the name artfully turned to face the camera, sends out a message of some kind, to someone, somewhere. And by continuing to promote her career in the arts and literature through the pages of its newspaper, the liberal publication is complicit in that message, whether it likes it or not.

Update: Lionel Shriver has responded to the above piece with a short article in Britain’s conservative Spectator magazine, claiming that it is “riddled with errors of fact”. Readers of An Sionnach Fionn are welcome to read both and make up their own minds.

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10 comments

  1. Yep. The Guardian in now just a Neo-liberal mouthpiece. Anything political – don’t bother reading about it in the Guardian. It follows the establishment line without flinching. It does try on the old fig leaf sometimes with the likes of Owen Jones and Keegan and Paul Mason, but the so called trust that owns it is made up of financial city types and worse.

  2. The Canary UK is a better read these days so much so that the BBC are preaching against it and other indie news sites, the Guardian is Blairite Labour. The best political blogs in the UK provide better news analysis.

    1. The Canary and others like it are an interesting phenomenon. The US has had sites like that for ages but it has taken a good while for the UK to catch up. Interesting to watch some of the hit-pieces launched against the Canary in the metropolitan press in the UK. Its mere existence certainly seems to irritate some of the well-established publications.

      Of course, Guido has been there for ages, working on the Right. The British media decry it but they all read it and feed it stories.

    1. Thanks, I have added a link to the response so readers can judge her side of the story. Of course, the original article didn’t claim that Shriver was “advocating violent loyalism”, as she puts it. It was examining something more subtle and insidious about the British right and left – political and journalistic – when it comes to attitudes towards ideological unionism in Ireland. Since she lives partly in Britain and is an adopted British subject she falls into that category.

  3. ASF: In my humble view either she has horribly poor judgement or seeks to goad one category of reader while signalling her sympathies to another. This is a pity since I did enjoy her columns in the Spectator but now I register her in another light.

    She claims in her riposte that she collects mugs, but why, of all of them, she selected the UFF for prominence was questionable.

    It was a quite odious choice.

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