the right balance?

While Brian Feeney failed to mention all of the interested parties in his article on Tuesday – which I noted in sketching out the longer backstory here – in yesterday’s Irish News Newton Emerson filled in more detail on the official policy of dealing with the UDA. He asks where the political parties have been, and the two main unionist parties in particular, while the policy has been operating and puts names to those in positions where that policy will have been conducted from.Courtesy of the excellent Newshound

Sir Hugh Orde has expressed frustration with the way the courts handle loyalist cases. Is the PSNI receiving its peace-process signals from the Public Prosecution Service? The PPS is responsible for both prosecutions and bail applications.

Until this year it operated a clear revolving door policy towards loyalists, including the Shoukris – until a mysterious foot was suddenly jammed in that door in the case of the Shoukris alone. The director of the PPS is Sir Alasdair Fraser QC, who demonstrated after the Stormontgate fiasco that he sees no reason to explain himself to anyone.

However, Sir Alasdair does answer directly to UK attorney general Lord Goldsmith, who sits in the cabinet. The cabinet is formally advised on Northern Ireland matters by Jonathan Phillips, the NIO permanent secretary and former NIO political director.

Implementation of peace process policy is handled day-to-day at cabinet level by the prime minister’s chief of staff, Jonathan Powell, but because Tony Blair has never held a cabinet vote during his entire term in office, ultimate responsibility for loyalist peace processing goes right to the top. The situation in Dublin is much the same. Irish president Mary McAleese is most strongly associated with southern overtures towards the Jackie McDonald faction of the UDA – but whether or not this was her idea, it is inconceivable that she would pursue it without the taoiseach’s full permission. Bertie Ahern has recently confirmed this by meeting the ‘mainstream’ UDA himself.

Perhaps these establishment figures in London, Dublin and Belfast are correct in their cynical approach – but they must still be held accountable for the consequences. Last year the UDA murdered three people, including one Catholic and one Protestant civilian.

Those victims are unlikely to be its last. Is official policy towards the UDA striking the right balance between overreaction and appeasement?

It’s a question that has been raised on Slugger, in various forms, for some time – whether questioning the basis of the policy itself, “First of all, we should not get snookered by their rhetoric..” the perceived outcome of that policy, “the basis of a civilised society?”… as well as pointing to the levels of hypocrisy required to ignore it, “the best we can hope for?”

And, while Newton correctly queries the silence of the two main unionist parties in particular, the other mostly silent voice in this, up to now at least, has been that of the wider media..

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  • Peking

    I am not usually a fan of Newton Emerson’s work. But this particular column is excellent.
    He is dead right. Where are the DUP in all of this? Why has none of their reps. thought it worthy of comment? In particular, Mr and Mrs Dodds one of whom is MP and an MLA for the areas affected and the other a local MLA and Councillor.
    What must nationalists think of this deafening silence? Imagine the same situation in reverse and both the SDLP and Shinners sitting back and saying nothing – unionism, quite rightly, would be going through the roof.
    Unionist politicians, the PSNI, the prosecution service, the NIO and sections of the media are all colluding together in this fiction of good and bad UDA factions.
    I read the Belfast Telegraph this morning and one commentary/report in particular read like it was written by an inner council PR official.
    As I said on another thread, the UVF proved beyond doubt with 30 murders, Whiterock and Garneville and last weekends latest murder that this sort of strategy just doesn’t work.

  • John Maynard

    I’m not sure if this piece has identified the right chain of command but it has certainly identified the right question.

  • I have to say I like the notion of “peace processing”.

  • Nevin

    [i]Perhaps these establishment figures in London, Dublin and Belfast are correct in their cynical approach – but they must still be held accountable for the consequences.[/i]

    If Newton had done a little more research he’d have discovered that scrutiny and accountability of certain aspects of government here has been ruled out – and has been since at least 1985. As a civil servant, replying on behalf of Sir Patrick Mayhew, stated, “Details of the exchanges between the the Irish and British Governments remain confidential”.

    Then we have the rather exotic Finaghy Crossroads Group headed up by folks linked to loyalist and republican paramilitaries and endorsed by Mary McAleese. Presumably this rare bird will have scant regard for the justice and pol,icing agencies of the state.

  • The Dub

    The response of the main Unionist parties to the recent UDA feud is as per usual silence. No one is showing any leadership within the working class Protestant estates and giving these poor people any leadership. The hypocrisy of the DUP is breathtaking they will quite willingly deal with the UDA/UVF/LVF but will not talk with Sinn Fein. Until leadership is shown and these groups of thugs go away the Thugs will continue have their day

  • JR

    As a catholic I’m glad that this dispute has ended without violence to date. If there was a violent outcome the result would eventually lead to murderous attacks on catholics. It’s how all violent loyalist feuds end, “Why are we killing each other, them taigs are the real enemy!!”

  • eastbelfastloyalist

    Is it only a matter of time before trevor hamilton is invited on to the uda wing at maghaberry? After all the ‘mainstream’ uda adopted michael stone, another nutcase that nobody had ever heard of before.

  • The Devil

    But Trevor Hamilton isn’t a “nutcase”. He’s perfectly sane but evil, one of ours in fact.

  • michael

    JR

    ‘As a catholic I’m glad that this dispute has ended without violence to date. If there was a violent outcome the result would eventually lead to murderous attacks on catholics. It’s how all violent loyalist feuds end, “Why are we killing each other, them taigs are the real enemy!!” ‘

    As a PERSON aim glad that this dispute has ended without violence to date as no PERSON has been killed.

  • The Devil

    “As a PERSON aim glad that this dispute has ended without violence to date as no PERSON has been killed.”

    As a DEMON I regret that this dispute has ended without violence to date as no PERSON has been killed.

  • Big Hughie

    As head of the PSNI, I take great exception to one of my most valuable agents being referred to on this site as a ‘brussel’.
    Jackie might not be the brightest tout we have ever had but he is not a complete vegetable.

  • circles

    “As a DEMON I regret that this dispute has ended without violence to date as no PERSON has been killed.”

    As an EXORCIST I regret that this dispute has ended without violence to date as no DEMON has been killed (or even dealt with in a discourteous manner).

  • Peking,

    What must nationalists think of this deafening silence? Imagine the same situation in reverse and both the SDLP and Shinners sitting back and saying nothing – unionism, quite rightly, would be going through the roof.

    Frankly, unsurprised – Unionism have been working this double standard since the foundation of the state. Another fine (and current) example is stark difference in unionist response to the killings of Ronald Mackie and Robert McCartney.

  • Peking

    Robert Keogh

    Where oh where is that great upholder of standards on this site Fair Deal? Is he following the DUP party line on whatever the UDA does, and saying nothing?
    Pathetic!

  • The Devil

    “the killings of Ronald Mackie and Robert McCartney.”

    They do bear frightening similarities, don’t they? Perhaps Fair Deal will explain the silence in due course – when he learns to stop worrying and love the GAA.

  • circles

    I think Fair_Deal will wait until he’s told to bark on this one.

    Pity…

  • Pete Baker

    Guys

    No-one is obliged to comment on any particular issue.

    Now, if we could return to the topic of the original post.

  • bertie

    “Is official policy towards the UDA striking the right balance between overreaction and appeasement?

    Appeasement rules all over the place. I think we are a long long way from over reaction. Indeed I am having difficulty in thinking what might even be over-reaction as most things that I can think of are preferable to the present situation.