the basis of a civilised society?

In yesterday’s Sunday Times, while reporting that Andre Shoukri had been moved from the UDA wing of Maghaberry prison, Liam Clarke made some of the same links between events I pointed to here on Wednesday, and noted some additional ones too.From the Sunday Times report:

The UDA believes that £30m in British government funding to loyalist areas hinges on a peaceful outcome to the internal dispute.

There is also the potential of several million more being levered from Irish government and business sources by Martin McAleese, the Irish president’s husband.

This appears to be why the UDA cautiously isolated the Shoukris before removing them. The strategy was designed by Jackie McDonald, the UDA’s south Belfast brigadier, who is a friend of the McAleeses.

McDonald is known to have an astute political sense, while being a ruthless man. What sets him apart from the rest, and makes him the UDA’s effective leader, is his ability to build up favours and goodwill even among businessmen from whom he had extorted money.

“I won’t always be a brigadier, but I’ll always be Jackie McDonald,” he once said. “I’ll have to be able to live with people without looking over my shoulder. Being a hard bastard won’t get you that.”

This pragmatic approach has won him real political influence with the Irish government and the McAleese family, to the point where he is sometimes referred to as “the Irish ambassador” by fellow loyalists.

The plan that McDonald has sold to the UDA is that the British government investment can be used to employ former UDA activists and released prisoners as community workers. It would be a way out of criminality for those who want one.

It’s a sequence of events that some would no doubt suggest was a pragmatic approach, but for those who would argue, as the late Mgr Denis Faul did in this interview, on the topic of those communities and the control exerted by paramilitary groups..

“Either there is law or no law. That is the basis of a civilised society”

..there are other reasons to question the governments approach.

It reminded me of the question posed to the Secretary of State for Wales and Northern Ireland by the Guardian columnist Simon Jenkins, on the OTR Bill, before that particular Bill was withdrawn:

A political ethicist might see the “on-the-run” law as a political gesture in a higher cause. Individuals must often take second place to the collective good. Or ethics might ordain that such a law pollutes the integrity of the state. Why else were ministers so obviously queasy in the Commons. Were they nervous of reversing Eliot’s “greatest treason: to do the right deed for the wrong reason”? Were they doing the wrong deed for the right reason?

To which Peter Hain’s response was “In the cause of peace, our government has to take difficult decisions.”

Of course, subsequently the government was forced to change that particular decision..

No better time, I’d suggest, to remember those ethical questions, and to add another in light of Mick’s recent, if contested, question on who could replace the moral conscience Denis Faul represented

Who will provide a moral conscience for the Secretary of State et al?

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