The Sun Serialisations – No to “Downfall” – Yes to Book by “Feared Gangland Hood”

As readers will know, the Scottish Sun elected not to serialise “Downfall” by Phil Mac Giolla Bhain, having initially announced its intent to do so.

The Scottish Editor explained the decision in an editorial no longer available on the Sun website. Extracts from it read as follows:-

“THE Scottish Sun has never been afraid of controversy. Throughout the years, we have never shied away from tackling difficult subjects. We have never taken the soft option, the easy route, the quiet life.

We knew he (Phil Mac Giolla Bhain) was a controversial figure, but it was clear from the book he had written that he had a story to tell. And we felt it was a story that needed to be told to you, so that you could make your own minds up. So that you had a chance to read the behind-the-scenes details about the downfall of Rangers. So that you had a chance to see where the blame lay for the collapse of the club.

On Sunday, many Rangers fans contacted the paper. Most were reasonable, and wanted to point out some of the other material that the author carries on his website.

Let’s make one thing absolutely clear. We will never be bullied into not publishing stories simply because they upset some people.

We pride ourselves on having the finest journalists in the country who are totally and unequivocally impartial.

But Phil Mac Giolla Bhain is not one of our journalists and his blog undermines the entire industry.

THAT is why we have decided not to carry the serialisation of the book. Because the author — previously unbeknown to us — is tarred with a sickening sectarian brush.

We believed Phil Mac Giolla Bhain to be a proper and sound journalist. We were wrong.”

So according to the Sun we had the following:-

1                    The story of Rangers’ downfall needed to be told.

2                    Phil Mac Giolla Bhain was known to be a controversial figure.

3                    We did not know about all of the material on Phil’s website.

4                    Phil, well known to be a supporter of Celtic, was not “totally and unequivocally impartial”.

5                    His blog undermines the entire industry.

6                    Phil, unknown to the Sun, was tarred with an unspecified “sickening sectarian brush”.

7                    Phil is not a “proper and sound journalist”.

8                    The serialisation was not stopped because the story might upset some people.

One wonders in what way they thought Phil was controversial without realising it was connected to the Celtic v Rangers situation.

I don’t propose to go back through the stories serialised by the Sun to point out every one which does not meet those criteria, but I will choose one example.

I am not suggesting that the following story ought not to have been serialised, but the Sun could be looked at as being somewhat inconsistent in its application of its principles.

For example, whilst the story below could, depending on the precise contract, breach the Editors’ Code of Practice as promulgated by the Press Complaints Commission, serialising Phil’s book would not.

Section 16 of the Code reads

i) Payment or offers of payment for stories, pictures or information, which seek to exploit a particular crime or to glorify or glamorise crime in general, must not be made directly or via agents to convicted or confessed criminals or to their associates – who may include family, friends and colleagues.

ii) Editors invoking the public interest to justify payment or offers would need to demonstrate that there was good reason to believe the public interest would be served. If, despite payment, no public interest emerged, then the material should not be published

In January 2012 the Daily Record reported the following in connection with a budding author who was looking for a book deal:-

NOTORIOUS gangster Ian ‘Blink’ McDonald has written a book about his violent life of crime. The former bank robber spent three months penning his autobiography, with the help of his 20-year-old son. It has the working title of Blink: The Early Years and tells how, as a teenager, the ruthless thug slashed and robbed his way up the criminal ladder.

In his book, the Glasgow hardman tells of assaults on cops and prison officers, and beatings he received inside. The 48-year-old said: “It’s a violent and brutal account of my life and prison life. It’s quite graphic and no-holds-barred, from someone who’s actually been there and experienced it.

The book ends with him being jailed for 16 years in 1992 for a botched £6million bank heist, during which a teller was shot in the head. He was released on licence in 2001 but this was revoked in 2003 following a series of rows with nightclub bosses. He was forced to return to Shotts prison and spent another year inside.

He added: “It starts with me stealing pick ‘n’ mix as a five-year-old in Woolies and ends up at the Old Bailey. I really put the boot into police and prison officers. In 30 years of reading crime books, I’ve not seen anything as graphically detailed. I’ve always been a crook but who knows, maybe I’ve found a new career.”

On June 17, 2012 we saw the following published in the Sun. Clearly Mr MacDonald had found his book deal, and a newspaper to serialise his book too!

Day 1 of feared gangland hood’s sensational book

IAN ‘Blink’ MacDonald was one of the most feared enforcers in Glasgow’s violent underworld. In his forthcoming autobiography, Blink — A Journey Through Glasgow Mayhem, he reveals how he fought, robbed and slashed his way to the top.

And he tells how he started notorious reformed gangster Paul Ferris on the road to a career of crime. MacDonald’s plan was to start a new life in Spain, but the armed bank job which was to fund it went wrong and he was jailed for 16 years.

There he rubbed shoulders with some of Britain’s most sinister figures, including Reggie Kray. In Day One of The Scottish Sun’s serialisation, Blink reveals how he helped Ferris develop a taste for crime… in a stolen Glasgow taxi.

According to MacDonald, the teenage Ferris was amazed at the detail which went into planning jobs. He hung on his teacher’s every word.

Blink explained: “I told him, ‘Sit in the car and wait for me. I won’t be long — ten minutes maybe. I was back in nine minutes, a £3,000 tray of rings hidden beneath my coat. Pulling open the car door, I jumped in and told him, ‘Right, drive.’

“He did, and as we made our getaway I opened my coat to show him the haul. ‘F*****g hell,’ said Paul. “We went to a resetter who would usually give me a third or a fourth of the value and left his home with £1,000, of which I gave Paul half. ‘You’re doing the next one,’ I told him. And he did.”

Soon Blink came up with the taxi plan, which reaped rich ill-gotten rewards.

But the cheeky pair were finally rumbled when the Hackney’s owner noticed his diesel gauge was plummeting.

“It was immense fun, particularly when a few people tried flagging me down by putting their arms out.”


Good luck to Mr MacDonald with his book, and I hope he remains a reformed character.

But really? The Sun sees it as in order to serialise the memoirs of a “feared gangland hood” and to talk about “the cheeky pair” who at the time were stealing a taxi and using it to rob shops?

He “reveals how he fought, robbed and slashed his way to the top.” At the same time he was having “immense fun” in his stolen taxi.

I clearly missed the piece where the Sun took him to task for his life of crime.

As I said, I do not object to the Sun serialising Mr MacDonald’s book.

But bearing in mind their apparent reasons for pulling the serialisation of Phil’s book, and removing the interview with him from their website, how is it consistent to serialise Mr MacDonald’s whimsical recollections of fighting, robbing and slashing his way to the top?

If the standards the Sun espouses regarding Phil apply, the how is it justified, as the Sun did in May 2011, to run a series of interviews with Paul Ferris, described in the MacDonald piece as the “notorious reformed gangster”?

I am an ardent supporter of freedom of speech.

One would have thought a newspaper editor would be too. To decide that, in some way, Phil’s blog means his book, being a story “that needed to be told to you (the Sun readership)” should not in fact be told, but Mr MacDonald’s should?

It is also of note that, whilst some of the articles cataloguing the Sun interviews with Mr Ferris state that he was not paid for the interview, there is no such disclaimer, as far as I can see about Mr MacDonald.

I am not suggesting that the Sun editor was anything less than 100% accurate in what he has stated as his reasons for pulling the serialisation of Phil Mac Giolla Bhain’s book. However one is forced to wonder about the values the paper espouses.

Posted by Paul McConville



Filed under Books, Press, The Sun

157 responses to “The Sun Serialisations – No to “Downfall” – Yes to Book by “Feared Gangland Hood”

  1. mick

    The Belfast Telegraph ran the following story regarding Asda’s intention to open up a new superstore in Larkhall:

    It would seem that Asda, unlike any other business which has been set up in Larkhall, is not going to be bullied by local people into changing its logo from green, to blue. Good luck with that one, Asda.

    However, I continued down to the end of the piece and read, “More from the Belfast Telegraph -”

    First story: – “My year of hell, by man falsely accused of indecency with a horse.”

    This is an absolute disgrace. How anyone could behave like this I will never know. And the man with the horse is a shocker too.

  2. JimBhoy

    Hey pie dude all due respect I am Celtic thru and thru but I hope one day we will see a great rangers too. The recent interlude is a hiatus, I know all the thoughts about punishment etc but in a few years time the celtic men will also think ok bring it on…
    for all rangers fans must have been a fukin mare recently it will work out but may take a wee time, come back better..!!!!

  3. mick

    it seems to be that the more rural you are the more the delusional disorder is rive

  4. I don\’t think I\’ve been as depressed about the reaction to any book since The Satanic Verses.

    Unlike most people commenting here I have no interest in football. I became interested in the story of Rangers demise because of the extraordinary failure of the media to report the facts.

    I started out as someone with huge sympathy for Rangers fans who I felt were simply being told what they wanted to hear by the media rather than presented with the facts and given the opportunity to save their club. I even rather stupidly imagined that once Rangers fans realised how they\’d been cheated by their media and the shysters running their club they might force the press to up it\’s game in all areas and realise that \’churnalism\’ and fairy stories just won\’t cut it any more.

    However as matters progressed it became clear that the Rangers support were mostly represented by a shower of nasty, ignorant, aggressive bigots. For years I\’d casually remarked to Rangers and Celtic fans that they were all as bad as each other. The last few months has blown that one out the water, whilst the dregs of the Celtic support are every bit as bad as anything the Rangers support throws up there is at least a debate and discussion on Celtic fora. Decent voices can drown out the nastier elements amongst Celtic fans and those who support other clubs. Yet, judging by the comments on Rangers Media any decent Rangers fan who tries to make their voice heard is shouted down and abused.

    The reaction to Downfall has been all too typical of these horrors. We have seen the utterly loathsome \’Vanguard Bears\’ make disgusting allegations against the author of this book. The most foul of which includes a charge of child molestation which, if the Bears honestly believed to be true and were human beings in possession of a heart a conscience, they would have reported to the police to ensure justice for the victim. Only they haven\’t because their aim is simply to damage book sales and incite violence against the author. Like I say I have no real interest in football. Nevertheless I have bought a copy of Downfall because it\’s the only rational response to the would be censors.

    It is solely down to the behaviour of Rangers fans over the last few months that I have moved from being sympathetic to them and the plight of their club to someone who sincerely wishes that Rangers oldco/newco and any future incarnation perish and are forgotten forever. I had hoped new Rangers might have been able to shed it\’s more unfortunate baggage. Sadly that hasn\’t been the case and doesn\’t look possible. The existence of Rangers only provide a focus and rallying point for these inadequate Protestant supremacists who wouldn\’t recognise Christianity, Protestant, Catholic or Orthodox if it tapped them on the shoulder and read them a passage from the Bible.

    These people don\’t speak for Scotland, they don\’t speak for Protestants and they most certainly shouldn\’t speak for all Rangers fans. Quite why they have been left to take centre stage and drown out saner voices is testament to their excellence at bullying. No one in charge at Rangers is prepared to do the decent thing and make it clear to the scum element that they are not welcome – a crying shame for both decent fans and members of the public alike. Worst of all we have both a management and ownership prepared to pander to the dregs. How sad. The demise of old Rangers was a golden opportunity. What a shame no one prepared to take a long term view and invest in a club worth having came along.

    • ecojon


      Some post – seems to touch most of the bases. However you have missed the elephant in the room in the shape of Ireland. That to me is the lynch-pin of the problem.

      I seriously believe that if the Irish economy hadn’t collapsed then we would probably be starting to talk about an All-Ireland referendum vote.

      So it may have been delayed for the present but I believe the fuse is burning so to speak

      • mick

        @ecojon and jenny dont forget we have to vote for independance to so the result of that could be a step to unification of the north easy and wales and england although each country would always help each other they could rule them selfs

      • I entirely agree that if the world economy hadn’t crashed we’d be a lot further down the road to a united Ireland. I’m basing that on the vastly improved relations between the UK and Ireland and the co-operation between the NI assembly and the Irish government. As an aside, those against a united Ireland on economic grounds might want to look at Ireland’s growth figures which are much higher than the UKs.

        But I wonder how much of that would register with the loopier elements of the Rangers support? Maybe they have just sensed they are the textbook victims of divide and conquer and that their supremacy was in the end trivial. Maybe all this venom is the last hurrah of a dying subculture. Who knows?

      • @Mick,
        I think Scottish independence, assuming it happens will liven things up a bit. Here’s hoping.

      • ecojon


        The problem I have with reunification is that a lot of loyalists and it could be a significant number would leave a united Ireland and the vast majority would settle in the WoS. I won’t be voting for Independence as I am actually a Unionist although politically a Republican who is happy to keep the Queen but after her demise we would move to a more Continental style of slimmed-down Royalty purely to generate tourist dosh.

        By the way I don’t need anyone to point out the obvious inconsistencies in the above statements as I am wella ware of them but have failed to square the circle on them in this lifetime so far.

        Maybe next time I’ll come back as Royalty and find out what a hard job it is 🙂

  5. ecojon


    Like you I have a shared religious background and I truly believe it has helped me find balance in life and not just in how I view football support. But I cannot abide by bigotry no matter what side it comes from just like I cannot abide any of the ‘isms’.

    When you get beneath the skin of those infected then you always find IMHO fairly sad and damaged people who need to find success at all costs in a football team because they have so little to be happy about in their own lives and so little success. I don’t talk solely in financial terms here but more in terms of just happiness and seeing good rather than evil.

    • JimBhoy

      @ecodude, i so respect what you write and i know you are a good man/woman…!!!! 🙂
      I love football. I love coaching football, it costs me a fortune to do so and you may have read my criticism of council crap… bad parks etc.
      Football in this country is not a winter sport, no fukin way..!

      fed up talking rangers and fans…. they seem happy cool!

      my team have a fab squad and i am so looking fwd to the season ahead. i was asked did i know who we had bought check my past blogs for that response from mr baxter boy.

      You are way more intelligent than me pal, keep your views coming..!

    • mick

      @ecojon its the border issues a worry about traveling south for work might end up having a tool at haedreans wall

    • mick

      @jenny its a case of “Ozymandias” for the blue corner as time changes so does rulers

  6. mick

    theres new pie news jim look below bluechip the new pie sellers

  7. JimBhoy

    Wowser….. pietastic!!!!!

  8. ecojon

    @JimBhoy – not more intelligent Jim just lived a bit longer and see quite a bit of life in other countries and gained the realisation about how small and narrow-minded we really are in Scotland. The wave of immigrants that we have had is like a tonic with the birth rate decline and overall population loss reversed.

    And it’s easy to bemoan kids today but with the pressures they are under I think a helluva lot of them do OK. I saw your problem with strips and have a few ideas but would rather not broadcast them on here. Why don’t you set up an anonymous hotmail or google account and send it to Paul and ask him to forward it to me and I’ll tell you what I think. Might not work but my motto is if you don’t ask you don’t get 🙂

  9. JimBhoy

    fellas thanks. paul has my email to either of you it’s cool…… Ecojon i am an associate director/manager from one of the biggest research companies in the world and been pretty much everywhere too. Not an imposter just a footie fan and boys coach..

  10. JimBhoy

    @ mick i love your posts mate, i dont always agree with you or PMcG but it is all cool

  11. mick

    @jimbhoy sound as jim good luck with the games ahead

  12. Bill

    I know it’s a bit off the wall ,but why dont we all enjoy the football and leave the rest to the lawyers ,accountants and businessmen ,lifes hard enough .

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