“this paramilitary power play”

There’s a lot of justified focus on the ongoing dispute between the social workers’ UDA management in North Belfast following the “demonstration to show those who needed to see the demonstration that [they were] capable of said demonstration”. The BBC’s Vincent Kearney returns to the topic he covered in much better detail previously when he looked at the endemic criminality of the UDA, and Brian Rowan’s article in the Belfast Telegraph has a reasonable assessment of the wait and see game being played by the NIO/Peter Hain/Jonathan Powell et al.. but there are a couple of points to highlight.Brian Rowan points to the Irish and British governments’ involvement in the UDA power struggle,

The UDA of old would have responded immediately and in kind, but the UDA of today is telling those who will listen that it now wants to be different and that it is capable of change.

It is this that made possible the recent meetings with the Secretary of State Peter Hain and the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, and it is the credibility of this political project that is on the line if this organisation allows itself to be sucked into another feud.

And then, towards the end of the article, he warns about what happens next

A protest of some kind is planned in the Ballysillan area later this evening – and what is said and what is not said – in these coming hours and days will determine the next steps in this paramilitary power play.

But while, as Brian Rowan describes it,

A meeting in the Shankill yesterday – in Heather Street – appears to have achieved very little other than to confirm the widening gap between the organisation’s Inner Council leadership and a significant chunk of its North Belfast Brigade.

The two sides spoke in the company of two pastors – Brian Madden and Jack McKee, and the police watched them come and go.

..it’s worth remembering that Ihab Shoukri is currently remanded in jail on the charge of membership of the UDA, a charge based on a handwritten statement, noted here, which, along with less diplomatic language than the statement read out by Frankie Gallagher at that demonstration, included the line

So we must now take our fight into the political arena.

Presumably, the statement read out by Frankie Gallagher wasn’t hand-written.. and of course, as Lord Justice Nicholson mentioned at the time, “he was concerned that if Shoukri was granted bail he would be a danger to the community and there would be public disorder.”


What should be clear by now is that in this particular paramilitary power struggle both the Irish and British governments have already indicated where their favours lie.