Loyalists out of step with changes?

With another death attributed to Loyalist paramilitaries over the weekend, the end of the IRA campaign is throwing light on that (lesser known) side of the paramilitary equation. Henry McDonald’s excellent piece in the Observer magazine yesterday, details exactly how the shady world of Loyalist paramilitarism has moved from its heartland and into North Down’s ‘Gold Coast’ – with tragic results for at least one family.

The Dorrians are Catholics living in a village that is largely Protestant, on the edge of a seaside unionist town that has been relatively untouched by 35 years of incipient civil war. They stress that during that time they were never subjected to abuse or violence, even in the darkest days of the conflict.

Yet, after coming through three decades of sectarian slaughter, Lisa Dorrian has joined the ranks of Ulster’s ‘disappeared’ – those who have been abducted, in some cases tortured, murdered and then buried in the tightest of secrecy by paramilitary groups, mainly the IRA. Lisa’s disappearance, however, is different in one crucial sense – she is the first person to be ‘disappeared’ by loyalist terrorists.

Later, McDonald notes the action being taken by the UVF, a rival to the LVF – the organisation widely suspected of her disappearnence:

Meanwhile, the UVF has set up its own ‘inquiry’ into Lisa’s disappearance, which is running in parallel with the official police investigation. In a macabre twist to the tragedy, and apparently without irony, the UVF has appointed convicted murderer Samuel Cooke to head its ‘investigation’. He was one of five loyalists jailed in 1994 for the sectarian murder of 26-year-old Catholic mother Anne Marie Smyth in 1992. Her killers strangled her and cut her throat, after she was lured to a party in east Belfast by a group of UVF men drinking in a local loyalist social club.

Mark Dornan, the PSNI’s senior investigating officer on the case, is scathing about the loyalists’ self-appointed ‘policing’ role in the tragedy. ‘These gangs have no moral or legal authority and they will end up causing even more crime,’ he says. At least 150 officers, ranging from underwater search teams to behavioural analysts, have spent the past four months trying to find Lisa. Yet despite having spoken to nearly 1,200 people, the PSNI is yet to achieve a breakthrough. Although Dornan will not be drawn on the killers’ skills in covering their tracks, he – like other detectives – knows that some of those responsible learned their trade in the paramilitaries.