“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.”

Indeed.

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.

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  • loftholdingswood

    Both Kearney and Rowan have it pretty much on the ball and their analysis only strengthens, in my opinion, the line that the UPRG and the Inner Council have taken. It has been gratifying to see Pete Baker (and others) blog the progress in a way to show the thinking behind the actions taken without recourse to the usual “they are all evil – let them all go to hell” kind of stuff. I think we can all agree that all “right thinking people” (whoever they are – as a minister once said to me, he would preach to his congregation on a Sunday but was sure that the majority of parishioners would fleece him on a Monday!) despise paramilitaries. But we are in a process (and God knows it is a long drawn out process) of change, of re-invention and of re-integration. We can either ignore everything that is going on around us or try to understand it, better still to add to it in an effort to instill the change that the great and the good desire.

    I do think commonsense will prevail, I really do. This time. Ultimately the whole mindset of all of us must change. It is happening to some but not all. I always say to people (and they groan and raise their eyebrows to the sky) that guns are not the problem. They exist, they are used, they are dumped, they are “surrendered”, more get purchased!. Repeat until exhausted. It is the mindset behind the trigger, not the finger. Change your mindset ergo you don’t require the gun. That is an argument for another day I suppose.

    I am confident of a non violent solution. Some good heads are working hard behind the scenes to bring all this to an end.

  • Pete Baker

    Lofty

    A quick point..

    Just because I can see, and plot, the machinations of the NIO and the UDA doesn’t mean that I either agree with, or endorse, those machinations.

    As I’ve suggested previously, it’s not a basis for a civilised society

  • TheVoiceOfTreason

    Yes but what about those naughty provies ?

    et cetera …

  • Dread Cthulhu

    LHW: “I do think commonsense will prevail, I really do.”

    Better late than never, eh?

    LHW: “I always say to people (and they groan and raise their eyebrows to the sky) that guns are not the problem. They exist, they are used, they are dumped, they are “surrendered”, more get purchased!. Repeat until exhausted. It is the mindset behind the trigger, not the finger. Change your mindset ergo you don’t require the gun. That is an argument for another day I suppose. ”

    You’ll forgive me for not holding my breath… Were it that simple for these mugs to change their mindset, they’d not need Frankie G. bending ears on the necessity of keeping young master Shoukri in the clink.

    Ultimately, LHW, its still all just talk, leastwise thus far. With a fair-to-middlin’ chance of a UDA “house-cleaning” before the end of summer, it going to take more than just talk that the UDA is truly interested in a “new way.”

  • loftholdingswood

    Pete Baker,

    Yes I understand that completely. I am just glad that there is a forum for reasoned debate that does not just keep to the “hang ’em all” line so popular with some.

  • eastbelfastloyalist

    Interesting piece in the Daily Mirror today about the secret meetings between Jackie McDonald and PSNI ACC Peter Sheridan that have been going on for the past few years.
    Is this an attempt to take the sting out of revelations about to surface about a much longer term relationship between McDonald and elements of the security services?

    Last week we learnt about the PSNI ignoring two confidential telephone warnings a few days before Jim Gray was murdered that weapons had been moved close to his house.
    This Sheridan/McDonald relationship sure raises some serious questions.

  • loftholdingswood

    Dread Cthulhu,

    It is all talk. I’d sooner that than all guns. Even house-cleaning can theoretically be done with just soap and a sturdy brush. And common sense is a rare commodity at times. We shall see.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    LHW: “It is all talk. I’d sooner that than all guns. Even house-cleaning can theoretically be done with just soap and a sturdy brush. And common sense is a rare commodity at times. We shall see. ”

    Aye, and painting houses can be done with brushes and a bucket a latex, but not usually by this lot. You’re long on theory and they’re short on track-record.

  • loftholdingswood

    Well the theory will have to stop right now as I’m off to yet another interminable meeting in a smoke filled room attempting to keep things sweet in my particular area.

    There will be more on this later no doubt as things progress.

  • fair_deal

    The reporting on this entire ridiculous affair is an example of lazy/conflict journalism.

    Brian Rowan’s ‘reputation’ has been built on simply regurgitating whatever the last security or paramilitary ‘source’ he talked to said.

    Vincent Kearney has been following in the same vein, he has been regurgitating whatever the Inner Council faction has told him. The Inner Council has made three attempts to change the leadership in north Belfast (an internal coup, an inner council demanded change, trying to impose a new leadership.) Each of them has failed. For the second the IC faction claimed it had the support of SE Antrim, which has since shown to be false. However, VK still repeats whatever they say regardless of questionable credibility.

    However, this is the mistake often made, buying into all this crap in the first place. It is a fine example of the amorality of the process. West/East/South Belfast have as much drug dealing and racketeering going on as North so that the anti-crime claim is a joke. The IMC didn’t say UDA crime was endemic in north Belfast. However that is to be forgotten about as there is apparently a ‘acceptable’ UDA and ‘unacceptable’ UDA.

    The result so far has been two young men are alleged to have possessed firearms and if convicted will face a number of years in jail. Two men have received severe beatings. Homes have been damaged. Over the week-end people living in various communities were scared to leave their homes as rumours circulated that ‘Ballysillan is going to be wrecked’ ‘Tiger’s Bay’s going to be cleared out’ ‘People have been ordered to keep their kids off the streets’.

    And for what? The UDA is going away in a few months anyway, all they are doing is haggling on the price and who gets a cut. People living in loyalist areas have enough problems to deal without adding to it with all this crap that only increases the push factors for them to try and get out.

  • Pete Baker

    Fair deal

    In playing the man, in the case of the reporters linked in the original post, you missed the earlier report by Vincent Kearney I noted, in which he points to the irony of the North Belfast faction being singled out as criminals.

  • Garibaldy

    FD,

    I hope you’re right that the USA will be going away. I think in the medium to longer term yes. But the truth is that both North Belfast and SE Antrim have been responsible for a lot of sectarian killings and trouble. If, and it’s a big if, people who are loyal to the vision of change that does actually seem to be slowly happening can be put in place might be better. I agree that all this has little to do with rooting out criminality. I think it’s political

  • Garibaldy

    Freudian slip there! That should be UDA

  • Peking

    I never cease to be amazed at the number of people who keep falling for the same crap no matter how many times we have been caught out in the past.
    Listen to the likes of Frankie Gallagher and that other guy from Derry, whose name escapes me, when they are being interviewed. They just spout as if by rote a collection of cliches about transformation, part of the problem part of the solution, loyalist alienation etc. They are never asked to detail, itemise or explain exactly what they mean because the “good news” reporter knows they haven’t a clue and doesn’t want to ruin the media and NIO created fiction of a good UDA and bad UDA.
    FD is right, there is not one area of the UDA different than any other in terms of criminality, extortion, threatening people, drugs, bullying, murder etc.

    The frightening thing is how far down the road the NIO and now it seems the PSNI are going in colluding with some of these gangsters in removing associates they fall out with. The efforts being made to make them a permanent part of society and the long term problems this is heaping up for the future.

  • bertie

    Thuggery is treated as if it was just another “lifestyle choice”

  • Dread Cthulhu

    bertie: “Thuggery is treated as if it was just another “lifestyle choice” ”

    Isn’t it though…

    Now, it dawns on me the state could get rid of Andre with the simple expediency of a tax audit, or is that another levy to which N.I. is immune?

    Logically, he would have to be misrepresenting his primary source of income and the amount of said income, in much the same fashion as Alphonse Capone liked to describe himself as a dealer in second hand furniture. He has also demonstrated some remarkable gambling losses.

    Why not simply audit the bastard, nick him on tax evasion and be done with it?

  • Moochin photoman

    Poor old Andre he had his Merc impounded recently……for no rd tax it was clamped, impounded and subsequently crushed at the Belfast City Council pound, thus adding to Belfast’s rising reputation for proactive recycling.
    Glad to hear that he ‘s doing his bit for the planet!

  • Peking

    Dread Cthulhu

    You miss the entire point, this is not just about “Andre” or those who still support him. What makes him any different from the other gangsters whose side the media, NIO and PSNI have all come down on? Nothing at all. The UDA is a blight on society here, incapable of change but the NIO and others are trying to give them fancy titles and embed them within societal structures. A mini Sicily is being created before our very eyes.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Peking: “You miss the entire point, this is not just about “Andre” or those who still support him. What makes him any different from the other gangsters whose side the media, NIO and PSNI have all come down on? Nothing at all. ”

    Consider Andre the first brick in tearing down a house of ill-repute, Peking. You have to start *somewhere* in cleaning up this mess and Andre happens to be the bit of rubbish nearest the dumpster. There are sufficient laws on the books to solve this conrundrum — all that is required is the political will to make them work.

    Peking: “The UDA is a blight on society here, incapable of change but the NIO and others are trying to give them fancy titles and embed them within societal structures. A mini Sicily is being created before our very eyes. ”

    Are they incapable of change? No — all men are capable of change. They, however, have no incentive to change or, more accurately, have not been provided sufficient disincentives vis-a-vis their current “occupations” to make them consider alternatives.Audit the criminals, convict the criminals, publicize the evidence — let the sunshine in on the dark underbelly of what they do and who they are. Where the carrot fails, perhaps the stick will work.

  • Peking

    “…all that is required is the political will to make them work.”

    Exactly, but that is what is missing in all of this the political will to clamp down on these thugs.
    Your talk of carrots would make theoretical if not moral sense if it hadn’t been tried to exhaustion for decades without success.
    As I pointed out in my opening remarks, there are always those who keep falling for the same old tripe about them wanting to change and all the rest of it.

    “Are they incapable of change? No—all men are capable of change.”
    How touchingly naive.
    Tell that to any society battling to rid itself of embedded organised criminal gangs. Here our authorities are actually in the process of helping them embed. The long term effects of all this will be colossal.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Peking: “Your talk of carrots would make theoretical if not moral sense if it hadn’t been tried to exhaustion for decades without success.”

    Re-read my post — I’m not talking about giving additional carrots, I’m talking about bringing the stick into the mix. They have been offered incentive to change. What is also needed are disincentives to remain as they are, i.e., the stick. One leads to a better way, the other punishes the lack of good sense not to take advantage of the opportunity to move on. Andre would be a good place to start — it would illustrate the vulnerability of at least some of his fellow UDA members and give the state the chance to flex some muscle without unduly offending anyone, except maybe the Shoukri brothers, who aren’t in for a lot of sympathy from anyone, anyhow.

    Peking: “Tell that to any society battling to rid itself of embedded organised criminal gangs.”

    Ah, but you’re not and that’s the problem. Your leaders are simperingly offering up tribute, in hopes the criminal will stop doing the things for which your leaders are offering them tribute. The problem with Danegeld is you’re stuck with the Dane.

  • Peking

    Dread Cthulhu
    Apologies, I have misunderstood the point you were trying to make. We are more of a mind than I thought.

  • willis

    Well this is all fine and dandy

    However the UDA and UVF would feel a lot more exposed if the OO, DUP and UUP washed their hands of them. Maybe a few more peaceful Twelfths and a bit more Orangefest Danegeld eh!

  • Dread Cthulhu

    willis: “However the UDA and UVF would feel a lot more exposed if the OO, DUP and UUP washed their hands of them. Maybe a few more peaceful Twelfths and a bit more Orangefest Danegeld eh! ”

    Danegeld won’t work — at best, its a palliative.

    As for the other parties, I wouldn’t hold my breath. With the exception of the UUP, which publicly climbed *INTO* bed with the UVF, Unionism doesn’t acknowledge / admit their ties to Loyalism. Its the same logic that has the Shoukris in trouble — its not what they’re doing, its that they got caught that is causing the problem.

  • willis

    DC

    Indeed

    Multiple identity is the curse of unionism. Ultimately the OO is the binding agent. It pulls together the politicians with their pretentions to democracy, and the paramilitaries who provide the muscle.

  • eyes wide open

    I find the tone of the earlier post by east belfast loyalist rather strange. I sense a hankering for the old glory days of loyalism as led by that well known Robin Hood,Jim Gray, and his bunch of merry men.Does E.B.L not realise the damage caused to our own community by Jim Gray and the young newtowns? You have only to look at the bleak and barren landscape of the Newtownards Road where a once thriving commercial centre has been replaced by row after row of boarded-up shops- shops that were forced to close because their owners could not afford to pay protection money to Gray and who also had to suffer a severe loss of trade when shoppers from the Short Strand were intimidated off the road.

    I know because I was one of those traders.

    Cast aside your conspiracy theories E.B.L. and look at the real picture all around you….

  • eastbelfastloyalist

    Mr Lawlor
    If your eyes were as wide open as you claim then you would see through runaway Frankie and MI5 Jackie.

  • eyeswideopen

    EBL,

    Unlike some, I have no loyalty or love for the past or present incumbents allegedly in
    the leadership of that organisation.

    I merely state that any moves towards normality through disbandment of all such organisations should be welcomed by all with the genuine interests of East Belfast at their hearts.

    I am sure that you agree -Don’t you?

    EWO

  • Pete Baker

    To those who imagine that the UDA will be disbanded anytime soon.. I’d wait for the announcement of that first.. then I’d look for evidence of it.. and I’d still be sceptical of it if I were you.

    As I’ve mentioned here before, and Peking has re-iterated, both governments – and the Head of State of the Republic of Ireland – seem intent on granting the ‘good’ leaders in the UDA, and their associates, political capital as well as seeking to embed them within ‘community’ organisations.. positions which will doubtless be publicly funded.

    Look for some familiar candidates to emerge in future elections.

    And.. Welcome to our Brave New World!

    Soma will be available from your local ‘community’ organisation.. as usual..

  • eastbelfastloyalist

    Looks like tonights meeting didn’t go too well for the MI5 stooges tonight in n Belfast.
    Expect plenty of arrests in that place over the next few days as the PSNI try to pull their agents out of a hole.

  • Comrade Stalin

    These people – the UDA – have no votes and no mandate. So precisely should I give a damn about what they want ? It’s true, I’d much rather that an organization would go away of it’s own accord rather than us have to get the police in to do it.

    I find contributions like that of “eyeswideopen” to be illuminating and confusing at the same time. I agree completely that the presence of loyalist paramilitaries hinders peace and economic development within unionist communities, never mind non-unionist areas. So why do unionist politicians remain decidedly muted when it comes to urging for action against such paramilitaries ? I haven’t heard a dicky bird out of any elected representatives (someone correct me here) about this UDA business. If “eyeswideopen” is representative of the majority of unionist opinion, then why are the elected representatives of that majority so afraid to say anything negative about the loyalist paramilitaries ?

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Comrade Stalin: “These people – the UDA – have no votes and no mandate. So precisely should I give a damn about what they want ?”

    Because they still have lawyers, guns and money?

    Because when the inevitable “house-cleaning” comes down, every bullet that’s fired has to hit something, even if its not what it aimed at?

    Comrade Stalin: “If “eyeswideopen” is representative of the majority of unionist opinion, then why are the elected representatives of that majority so afraid to say anything negative about the loyalist paramilitaries ? ”

    Did I mention the guns? That, and the fact that one gets a much better political “pop” out of running down “themmuns” paramilitaries than those allegedly allied with their own community.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Did I mention the guns?

    Dread, it’s nothing to do with guns. Unionists were never afraid of condemning the IRA’s violent murders and activities, and they never miss an opportunity to call for the organization’s total disbandment and removal. Years ago, they would frequently advocate that the job should be done by the army or police. Yet, they won’t use the same strident language for loyalists. What gives, do you think ?

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Comrade Stalin: “Dread, it’s nothing to do with guns. Unionists were never afraid of condemning the IRA’s violent murders and activities, and they never miss an opportunity to call for the organization’s total disbandment and removal. Years ago, they would frequently advocate that the job should be done by the army or police. Yet, they won’t use the same strident language for loyalists. What gives, do you think ?”

    First of all, the Loyalists have never been shy about using their guns on those they allegedly pledged to defend. Secondly, demonizing the IRA was good for a decent “pop” from their supporters. Demonizing Loyalists doesn’t get nearly the same response. Lastly, to the Unionist politician, the Loyalists may be bastards, but they’re *THEIR* bastards. For all the breast beating and bleating, Unionist politicians have their own connections to the thugocrats that might prove embaressing should they make too great a point of it.