What’s going on with the UVF?

Danny Morrison writing in Daily Ireland poses some questions.

Remember how often over the past thirty years we were told that loyalist paramilitary violence was solely a response to the activities of the IRA? We heard that mantra ad nauseam from unionist politicians and loyalist spokespersons alike. It was echoed in police press statements and in the tenor of early media reporting describing the murders of Catholics as “tit-for-tat” or “retaliatory” killings. They told us that if there was no IRA or IRA activity there would be no loyalist paramilitaries or loyalist violence. It was a perverted logic that allowed unionists to spuriously claim that the IRA was thus responsible for all 3,500 deaths.
But it is obvious from the history of Ulster unionism, including the illegal activities of the first UVF and its subsequent co-option into the state forces, that there has always been a dependant relationship between unionism and the use or threat of extra-parliamentary violence.

When Will We Hear The UVF’s Real Plan?

By Danny Morrison
www.dannymorrison.com

First published in Daily Ireland

Ian Paisley is on his holidays. The four entirely independent members of the Independent Monitoring Commission are on holidays. Peter Hain is the Secretary of State for Wales. Sir Hugh Orde is damned elusive. Where are all the ‘peace’ groups and those politicians opposed to paramilitary violence, drug-pushers and criminality?
Where are the Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) leaders, Billy Hutchinson and David Ervine?
Must be on holiday as well.
Remember how often over the past thirty years we were told that loyalist paramilitary violence was solely a response to the activities of the IRA? We heard that mantra ad nauseam from unionist politicians and loyalist spokespersons alike. It was echoed in police press statements and in the tenor of early media reporting describing the murders of Catholics as “tit-for-tat” or “retaliatory” killings. They told us that if there was no IRA or IRA activity there would be no loyalist paramilitaries or loyalist violence. It was a perverted logic that allowed unionists to spuriously claim that the IRA was thus responsible for all 3,500 deaths.
But it is obvious from the history of Ulster unionism, including the illegal activities of the first UVF and its subsequent co-option into the state forces, that there has always been a dependant relationship between unionism and the use or threat of extra-parliamentary violence.
That loyalist paramilitaries today represent something corrupt, uncontrollable and embarrassing does not gainsay the case that the paramilitaries in the past played their part on behalf of the unionist cause, and could do so again in the future.
Ian Paisley’s Ulster Protestant Volunteers were to the fore in the counter-demonstrations which attempted to smash the Civil Rights Movement. Loyalist gangs joined with the RUC and B Specials to burn Catholics out of their homes in 1969. William Craig’s Vanguard Movement was paramilitary at heart and, of course, the muscle for the Ulster Workers Council strike in 1974 came from the UDA and the UVF. Paisley joined with the UDA/UFF in the second strike in 1977. Then there was the penchant for wearing berets, marching in military formation, saluting flags and the swearing of solemn and binding oaths (the Carson Trail rallies, the Ulster Clubs and Ulster Resistance) which perpetuated a culture of unionist tolerance towards extra-parliamentary activity.
In recent years the IRA has not only engaged with the International Decommissioning Commission but also verifiably put a large number of weapons beyond use. Whilst during the IRA cessation some IRA activity continued, the graph of activity has shown a prominent decline until the IRA announcement last month of the formal end of its armed struggle.
Yet, loyalist violence, both sectarian and intra-community, has continued. The LVF emerged to support both a drugs empire and Orange Order demands to get marching through the Catholic Garvaghy Road. There have been internal UDA feuding, UVF Vs UFF feuding and UVF Vs LVF feuding resulting in the loss of dozens of lives.
When Billy Hutchinson announced a few years ago that he did not believe the UVF would decommission its weapons (even were the IRA to do so) both the UUP and the DUP were unexercised by his statement, because, according to them, the IRA is the real problem, not the loyalists: further proof of the duplicitous attitude of the unionist parties.
Catholic homes, schools and chapels have been systematically attacked. Over the summer there were attempts to drive Catholics out of various streets and villages around the North. There were gun attacks, pipe and petrol bombings.
The UVF has also been the driving force behind the most recent feud with the LVF which has resulted in the loss of several lives and a number of individuals being seriously wounded. The LVF, made up of former members of the UVF, has, in turn, attempted to kill its rivals.
In July up to 300 UVF men – who made no bones about being UVF members – occupied the Garnerville Estate in East Belfast and, in front of the PSNI and the British army, drove out a number of families with alleged LVF connections. Unionist politicians were measured in their criticism: in comparison to the passion with which within days they were to demonstrate in condemning the return of the Colombia Three to Ireland.
Indeed, Ulster Unionist Party leader, Sir Reg Empey, called for ‘mediation’ between the feuding sides. Could one ever have envisaged him giving the same vocational advice and wide berth to feuding republicans? His colleague, Michael McGimpsey, also spoke very softly when he described members of both proscribed organisations as ‘Volunteers’.
Many of the anti-Catholic attacks have occurred in the heartland of the North Antrim constituency of Ian Paisley. No doubt he will eventually issue – or be forced to issue – some statement of condemnation from his place of retreat. But the abiding perception is one of indifference – in direct contrast to the actions of several other Presbyterian ministers who went to Harryville and physically washed away the paint which had desecrated the Catholic Church.
Reading between the lines of the various statements of the mainstream unionist parties (when they can be found), and the spin put out by PUP spokespersons (when they can be found), there is clearly an attempt to paint the UVF as being somehow more virtuous and upright than the LVF. That is, that the UVF might merely be doing a bit of ‘house-keeping’ within loyalist working class areas (indeed, the purge of the LVF in Garnerville appears to have been fairly ‘popular’).
The UVF remains a dangerous and active sectarian organisation. It now appears increasingly likely that its members were behind the fatal stabbing of fifteen-year-old Catholic Thomas Devlin in North Belfast last week. It has also been disillusioned with the peace process, the Belfast Agreement and the failure of its political representatives in the PUP to establish a firm electoral base.
So, perhaps there is more to its feud with the LVF than driving out drug barons and ‘liberating’ Protestant areas. Is the UVF champing at the bit to resume full-scale activity? Isn’t it about time that we heard from Billy Hutchinson and David Ervine what the real plan is? Will they be honest enough to admit that the threat from the UVF is not related to the IRA or IRA activity but to the prospects of political progress and peace with justice?

  • Fanny

    History is being tweaked a little here, although certainly not re-written. I don’t recall *ever* being under any impression that loyalist violence would stop if IRA violence stopped. They’ve always been gangsters with a tribal excuse and everyone else in the tribe, that I know anyway, was never under any illusions.

    Why do you think nobody ever voted for the feckers?

  • barney

    But whatabout the IRA?
    Whatabout the IRA?
    Whatabout the fuc**** godamm IRA? Eh?
    Why have the bastards left us out here by ourselves?
    It’s not our fault, we can’t be responsible for ourselves. We’re only dumb unionists after all.

  • roddy

    Are the orange order happy to have uvf linked bands marching in their parades

  • Comrade Stalin

    I don’t agree with Morrison or SF on most things, but unfortunately they have unionism over a barrel with this one. Unionism can no longer pretend to have no association with loyalist paramilitarism. It’s time for the two governments to confront them with this fact.

  • Fanny

    Are you kidding? The two governments are in bed with the loyalists as well. This is all ‘peace process’, innit?

  • Headmelter

    Dannys comments are right on the botton.
    The fear of most nationalists is that when they have finished their ‘internal housekeeping’, attacks on nationalists will escalate. There are already signs of this and it is likely to become more severe.
    The psni have been apologetic on the unionist terrorists behalf which only bolsters SF’s position on policing matters.

  • Gonzo

    For once Danny’s on the button. At least he’s credible on the issue of ‘housekeeping’, although it makes the article a little hard to take. What is Mr Morrison’s view on the ‘housekeeping’ he is alleged to have taken part in? If he were honest about it, his article would contain some moral authority as well as many salient points.

    :op

  • heck

    what’s the next big revelation from Danny “the pope is catholic”?

  • spirit-level

    Seems that whereas the first 6 months of 2005 have been a disaster for Sinn Fein, culminating in the IRA statement, its now time for unionism to confront itself and eat humble pie. It will be harder for them, because of the “state of denial” that exists. Reality won’t go away you know.

  • DaithiO

    Surely unionists won’t have to suffer “Sackcloth and Ashes” too ?? 😉

  • groucho

    Very good piece on UVF by Newton Emerson in yesterday’s Irish News. Don’t know if you can post it here?

  • Dessertspoon

    He reiterates points already made by others and there is nothing new in his piece. If anything it’s pointless scaremongering written exclusively for the Nationalist and Republican audiences in much the same way Unionist commenters have written and still write about the IRA, Sinn Fein etc.

    I find that Morrison and others of his type (on both sides) rarely have anything positive to contribute but why would they, their jobs, their positions, rely on the division and the violence. It’s hard to write such emotive stuff about fiscal policies or education and health isn’t it.

  • reality check

    the differnce is though the uvf claims to be on ceasefire and yet still carries out killings.

  • Achilles

    I think the point is that we don’t want to wind back history to 1966 and start again.

    PSNI seem to have a policy where they wait for the loyalist gangs to kill each other.

    And Fireblankets – chrisakes. Someone is taking the pi$$. If PSNI can hand out fire blankets, then they have admitted defeat, and should therefore resign en-mass. PC Plumb from Balamory could do a better job.

  • idunnomeself

    What are the UVF up to?

    They are meant to be moving into community development. Where I live that means trying to talk to other community groups, repainting murals (removing gunmen, putting up George Best), setting up community restorative justice schemes. Then traditional activities have been rebranded as community work too- putting up flags and bunting and building the bonfire.

    I’ll be honest this is all hopeful

    But (like in the Godfather 3) their past keeps dragging them backward. And the extra curricular activities of some of their members can’t help.

    People expect them to fulfil a vigilante role too. I can’t say if they are committed to ending this or not.

    (Surely the attacks in North Antrim are either non-affilated thugs or UDA?)

    On the topic of the piece, well I think the situation is different in the two communities.

    A Unionist can support the use of physical force and still disapprove of the paramilitaries. The UDR and the old UVF will be cited as legitimate ways of supporting the state. But they will still hate the paramilitaries. There is a distinction in many Unionist minds.

    A Nationalist who supports the use of violence will have supported the IRA war

    So there you go, that’s the nuance that Danny Morrison missed and why his argument will only reinforce Republican beliefs and be ignored by Unionists who don’t follow his argument

  • martin

    Could any one explain to me if there are/were any ideological differences between the UDA and UVF-
    I’ve always been curious about why there were 2 large Loyalist organisations and not just one.

  • DavidH

    reality check: the differnce is though the uvf claims to be on ceasefire and yet still carries out killings.

    What organisation did not carry out killings while claiming to be on ceasefire?

  • Piggy Ring

    A friend of mine who’s in the building game explained the different approaches in the old paramilitary racketeering game: A ‘Ra man comes to see the gaffer on a site. He ‘offers’ a sheaf of hookey tax dockets to the gaffer at a ‘reasonable rate. Gaffer can’t refuse but at the same time is able to make good use of the dockets. And is thus drawn into into the whole nefarious shenanigans thus providing complicit security to the deal…Loyalist boyos meantime collar the gaffer and threaten to blow his ballicks aff, make life difficult, be very unpleasant etc….It’s a kinda style thing.

  • Confused

    Well there’s a surprise! Danny Morrison, a man with no small experience of journalistic spin, writes a piece of “whataboutery” that even his worst enemies have to concede contains truths. Whine on, fella, whine on, until a tiny titter of credibility enters into matters with you and your cronies supporting………let’s see now, who might reign in all the thugs, green and orange? Oh, yes, the police. God, how you folks nauseate me.