Towards a social peace – Part 1 (An article by fair_deal)

What can Unionism do about loyalist paramilitarism? Unionism has preferred to avoid this issue rather than attempt to resolve it. Nevertheless, it is a problem, which must be addressed as it is barrier to a normal society and harm is being caused to working class communities by its continuing existence. In Part 1, I will examine how Unionism has dealt with this issue during the peace process and argue that the two basic options of engagement on the one hand and policing on the other are inadequate. In Part 2, I will outline the concept of a social peace and set out a number of options which might resolve the problem. Unionism, the Process and Loyalist paramilitarism

To date the issue has been treated in the following ways.

First, the political leadership of Unionism decided to exact a political price in return for engaging with the political representatives of the PIRA. This decision meant Unionism calculated that greater benefits flowed from adopting this position than coming to terms with damage created by the continued existence of Loyalist paramilitarism. In the interests of consistency, it also meant that the Unionist leadership had to keep a similar distance from Loyalist paramilitaries.

Secondly and partly in consequence of the first, the issue has become a political football. For instance, although Republicans have called on Unionism to engage with Loyalist paramilitaries. However, if Unionists show the least signs of doing so Sinn Fein then accuses Unionists of displaying double standards. Also, Nationalism has represented Unionist avoidance of the issue as evidence of Unionism turning a blind eye to Loyalist violence.

Third, the norms of Nationalism are applied to Unionism. Policy makers, politicians and commentators ask why Unionism has not adopted the nationalist approach of embracing paramilitarism – why can’t Paisley/Trimble/Empey do a Hume/Adams Process? This view makes the fundamental mistake of assuming that the two main communities in Northern Ireland are mirror images of one another. They are not. Nationalist methodology will not achieve the same result in the Unionist community.

Fourth, the government have tried to use the paramilitaries and their parties as a means to undermine the two main Unionist parties. After the failure of the Brooke Mayhew talks in the 1990’s, the government were frustrated with the existing voices of Unionism and they hoped to encourage alternatives. Post-Agreement, the UUP tried to isolate the DUP and the anti-agreement section of the Unionist community by adopting a similar approach. The government’s attempt did succeed in bringing forward some effective community workers but produced only modest change in the Unionist political landscape. The UUP’s attempts failed miserably and arguably backfired.

However, Unionism needs to take up the issue because it is in its own self-interest to do so. Unionism needs to remember that while Irish Nationalism is a key competitor and principle threat to the Unionist aspirations, it is not the only one. Loyalist paramilitarism can pose an internal threat to our social cohesion and is a barrier to the full flourishing of Unionist communities.

The primary options

The two most frequently suggested options to address Loyalist paramilitarism are for it to be policed away or by direct and full engagement with armed and active paramilitary groups.

Option 1 – Policing the problem

This has been the primary position of the DUP. However, this approach is flawed for a number of reasons:
Limitations to policing – If policing and criminal justice alone could deal with crime then the world would enjoy very low crime levels and what crime did occur would have a 100% clear-up and conviction rate.
Not in a position to exercise control – In the absence of devolution and the fact policing is not a devolved power means politicians are in no position to secure this outcome. What structures that do exist and operate, the Policing Board and District Policing Partnerships, do not give politicians direct control. These bodies are means to advise the policing command structures and question them on their actions and commitments.
Government engagement – Government has ongoing engagement with Loyalist paramilitaries but this engagement is predicated on turning a blind eye to varying levels of Loyalist activity and crime.
Community v zero-tolerance – The demand for tougher policing is essentially a call for the zero-tolerance approach but this is wholly at odds with the developing policing culture within the PSNI which is the softer community policing model.

To conclude, it is easy to call for tougher policing but it is folly to suppose that it alone will produce the desired outcome. Besides the PSNI are not subject to political direction, those who do control the PSNI won’t do it and the PSNI are not favourably disposed to such an approach any way.

Option 2 – Engagement

This has become the preferred option of the UUP. However, the capacity of engagement to deliver and the willingness of the Unionist community to tolerate such an approach differs from the Nationalist community. While both communities have their paramilitaries, their position within their communities and the dynamics around them differ. These include:
Ideological commitment and endorsed means – Since the 1916 Rising the use of force has been an article of faith of the organisation that revolt spawned and the partial success of the IRA’s 1919-1921 campaign conveyed the impression that force could work. At any given time in the last 90 years the IRA has enjoyed fluctuating but continuing electoral support. Within Unionism the use of force has been seen more of as a threat (1) gesture and/or a tactic in times of civil strife. Loyalist threats and violence have primarily been reactionary (2). It is basically reactionary to London policy and republican violence(3). The third Home Rule period is a good example of Unionist attitudes to force. Force by the original UVF was to be used in clearly defined circumstances i.e. a threat, unlike its modern namesake. These circumstances were set out in the Ulster Solemn League and Covenant and this Covenant with God made the use of violence legitimate. However, when the original UVF did see battle it was on the unambiguously legitimate battlefields of France, not the fields of Ulster. Its ‘self-legitimised’ use of force never had to be used against its neighbour. It was the only occassion in the 20th century, when a majority, or even a significant section, of the Unionist community ever given its clear endorsement to the use of force by a non-state organisation.
The state alternative – Those in the Unionist community who wanted to fight terrorism had the option of joining the security forces. This meant a legal means to respond to violence existed. This always made Loyalist paramilitarism seem less legitimate in the eyes of the broad Unionist community. In their particular circumstances, there was no state alternative for the nationalist community.
A clear political programme – The Republican movement had a clear political aim. The political programmes of Loyalist paramilitaries changed throughout the troubles. Indeed, at one stage the UDA declared it had nothing to do with politics – ‘that was the job of the politicians’. In the post-ceasefire interviews with active members, it is clear many did not join paramilitaries to achieve a clear political goal but out of anger at political changes and a desire to retaliate or defend their own community. This is also reflected in the much less influential relationship between Loyalist paramilitaries and their political wings in comparison with Sinn Fein and the PIRA. For example, early on in the peace process Gary McMichael called for punishment attacks to end and he was completely ignored. It is easier to engage with those who have a clear idea about what they want and political representatives with clear influence.
A permanent feature – Paramilitarism within the Nationalist community has a historical continuity that it does not have in the Unionist community. The IRA in various forms has existed for almost 80 years with the Irish Republican Brotherhood before it. It has launched repeated violent campaigns to achieve separation from the United Kingdom. Permanence and persistence can often provide an explicit and implicit legitimacy within a community. It leads to a somewhat more open attitude to engagement (although the genuine and wholehearted opposition to violence of a clear majority of nationalists during the Troubles should be fully acknowledged).
Living off the backs of the people – Any paramilitary organisation ultimately has to live off the community it operates in. All terrorist groups engage in criminal activity to raise funds. The terrorist group that succeeds the most is the one that raises the most funds while causing the least harm to its community and that is not seen as their primary activity. The PIRA has been relatively successful at this. However, too often in Loyalist communities paramilitaries have revelled more in how much harm they can cause and how much criminal activity they can become involved in. The corruption of the late 1970s and early 1980s, the drug dealing since the 1990’s, the blackmailing of young people to join etc is well remembered and known. This behaviour affects whether an organisation is viewed as a paramilitary group involved in crime or a criminal group involved in paramilitary violence. In public perception, the IRA tends to fall into the former category (4) and Loyalism the latter. Such behaviour, and the refusal to acknowledge it or seriously address it, is the basis of longstanding resentment towards Loyalist paramilitaries in many of the communities in which they appear powerful. This means they are often perceived as a ‘necessary evil’ to be tolerated rather than the creation of popular will, something feared rather than respected. A ‘silent majority’ in working class areas will punish anyone who cosies up to the paramilitaries too much. This was reflected in the drop in UUP working class support when it seemed too willing to leave working class areas to the paramilitaries and their parties after the Belfast Agreement.
Predominance of paramilitarism – The PIRA’s presence and public support was much more widespread across the nationalist community. PIRA has been able to attract support beyond an urban and working class base, particularly in rural areas, whereas Loyalist paramilitarism has been largely restricted to an urban and working class base. In many Unionist communities the paramilitary presence was negligible to non-existent. After the early 1970s, this was particularly true in many provincial towns and rural areas. People in these communities and the middle classes tended to opt for the security forces or for ‘doomsday’ paramilitary groups (5). Some fell into the trap of perceiving the present strength and spread of Loyalist paramilitarism as being how it has always been. It wasn’t. It is much more a post-ceasefire development. Also as this growth has coincided with the peace process it is seen by many as a product of it and why they do not buy into the positive hype around the process. This means large sections of the Unionist community have never had nor want any truck with Loyalist paramilitaries. They spent the Troubles obeying the law, supporting the security forces and shunning explicit and implicit support for paramilitarism. They are left particularly cold by the argument that “We had our paramilitaries. You had yours” because they never regarded the UDA, UVF etc as ‘their’ paramilitaries. Also they expect the same standards to be applied by their politicians. This is reflected in voting patterns. Disenchanted UUP voters were reluctant to switch to the DUP because of past associations with the Third Force and Ulster Resistance (some still refuse to make the switch). It was also reflected in the hostile reaction to the UUP and PUP link-up.
Predominance of one organisation – There is more than one paramilitary organisation in both communities. However, the PIRA has essentially established and maintained a hegemony across the nationalist community. Throughout the Troubles, Loyalism has seen the fortunes of the different organisations fluctuate. With the post-ceasefire growth in Loyalist paramilitarism, the two main organisations are now similar in size and/or influence in their communities. The instability of the relationship between the organisations and within them is clearly evidenced by the various feuds. This is reflected at a local level too. It is easier to deal with one large stable organisation than two competing organisations with varying degrees of stability at high and local levels.
Poor results – Engagement as a means to reduce paramilitarism is not exactly a novel approach. It has been a feature of the peace process for the best part of 10 to 15 years. The government and Irish government began engaging with Loyalist paramilitaries prior to the ceasefires and have consistently maintained the relationship throughout. The UUP opted for the engagement strategy for a number of years ago through its work with the Loyalist Commission and latterly with the link-up with the PUP. Yet for all the efforts in 2006, Loyalist paramilitarism has a stronger presence today than they did when the engagement began. It needs to be acknowledged that the Loyalist paramilitaries have ridden the waves of the peace process very well over the past decade. They shift from pro to anti, from reducing and raising activity, always closely matching the mood of working class Loyalist areas. At each stage, the groups end up with increased membership and stronger control. This raises the question: do the Loyalist paramilitaries intend to disappear? In the past the evidence was not encouraging. However, recent evidence provides optimistic and positive signs e.g. the decline in punishment attacks, the increased level of internal debate.

These different dynamics combine to mean the use of paramilitary force in Nationalism could be characterised as the black sheep of the family. By contrast, the use of paramilitary force in Unionism could be characterised as the bastard child of a Victorian family (This attitude is also the basis of feelings of resentment by Loyalists to other sections of the Unionist community). Loyalism is more incoherent, disjointed and unstable than Nationalism. Loyalism makes for a more unreliable partner and there is no Loyalist equivalent of Adams. Significant segments of the unionist community – to be found in working class, middle class and rural communities alike – will punish the political party which directly engages with Loyalist paramilitaries, whatever the outcome. Hume would have been forgiven for failure, a Unionist leader wouldn’t.

This means anyone in Unionism wanting to tackle paramilitarism faces a more difficult task, a higher risk of failure and a greater political cost.

Endnotes
1 This can arguably be traced back to the Volunteer and United Irishmen. The Volunteers relied on large demonstrations i.e. threat. The United Irishmen tried the same in the 1790’s with large demonstrations and after the failed they had the abortive revolt. The poor turnout and high desertion rate show how many of its members preferred the threat of violence to its actual application.
2 The two examples of a pro-active approach by Loyalism were the early UVF attacks in the 1960’s and less so the pan-nationalist front analysis of the early 1990’s.
3 The two peaks of Loyalist violence were in the early 70’s when significant community conflict developed and the early 1990’s driven by the generation of Loyalists angered by the Anglo-Irish Agreement.
4 This perception of the PIRA was seriously challenged by the Northern Bank Robbery and the McCartney murder and led to the use of the term the Rafia. The likes of the INLA and IPLO would have matched Loyalism in their concentration on criminality.
5 These groups gather weapons and conduct basic training for ‘doomsday’. Doomsday is generally defined as a unilateral withdrawal and transfer of sovereignty by the government. This scenario is actually a political impossibility but this does not get in the way of some believing it.

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  • Little Eva

    I’m sorry, but I hope the options are a lot better than the analysis. I really do not want to be cruel, but this reads like a third-former’s rushed history project. Below are just a couple of examples.

    “A permanent feature – Paramilitarism within the Nationalist community has a historical continuity that it does not have in the Unionist community. The IRA in various forms has existed for almost 80 years with the Irish Republican Brotherhood before it.”

    I respectfully suggest you check up on on the peep-o’-day boys and other groups of that era before making such grand statements about continuity. For centuries in Ireland both sides have harboured and nurtured “defenders” of one kind or another.

    “The terrorist group that succeeds the most is the one that raises the most funds while causing the least harm to its community and that is not seen as their primary activity.”

    Are you seriously suggesting that all a terrorist group has to do to be “successful” is raise funds and not anger its host community? Does being efficient at the bloody business of what they do not come in to it, then?

    “Those in the Unionist community who wanted to fight terrorism had the option of joining the security forces. This meant a legal means to respond to violence existed. This always made Loyalist paramilitarism seem less legitimate in the eyes of the broad Unionist community.”

    I would have thought a more obvious conclusion and related to the previous point about efficiency is that the legitimate option significantly reduced the talent pool for loyalist paras to draw from by creaming off the most talented.

  • Brian Potter

    You ever kissed a girl?

  • Little Eva

    “Loyalist threats and violence have primarily been reactionary (2).”

    Surely you do not really believe this.

  • Auntie Fascist

    Interesting analysis, Fair Deal. I agree with you that Unionist politicians face a no-win dilemma when it comes to Loyalist paramilitaries. Hume could act the statesman when he consorted with Nationalist paramilitaries, but that option was not open to Trimble. Because, as you say, the Unionist community always regarded the security forces as the only legitimate user of violence (as they should be in a properly functioning democracy).

    The cultural dimension is important too. Rebel folksongs have always made heroes of assorted murderers, even when their only claim to fame was killing a fellow Irishman who happened to be a policeman, eg Kevin Barry, Roddy McCorley, etc. There may be similar songs in Loyalist circles, but they are not popular throughout the Unionist community. Unionist culture, in its widest sense, has tended to be sternly moralistic and law-abiding, compared to its Nationalist counterpart.

    Which is why we are stuck with the current political situation, granting respectable status to paramilitaries from one side only, and why it is difficult to see the way forward. How many supposedly reformed terrorists do we want in our political process? How many can we include before the whole barrel starts to go rotten?

    I look forward to reading your follow-up in Part 2.

  • Veritas

    Les Reid
    I’m afraid I’ll have to differ with you on the quality and accuracy of Fair Deal’s effort.
    I must say, the whole thing bears an uncanny resemblance to the preamble to something that was reported on a few years ago, the details of which I came across while researching old newspaper articles at the Linen Hall Library.
    Just a coincidence of course.

  • inuit_goddess

    I’ve got to say well done to fair_deal for a most thought-provoking analysis, which was set out clearly without the usual academic gobbledegook and/or process-speak which can plague analyses of loyalism.

    Certainly imho, one of the best posts on Slugger in a long wee while.

    There’s almost too much in there to respond to at once. I certainly look forward to Part II. I am also intrigued by your title “A Social Peace”.

  • Aodh Ruadh

    Very badly written and argued.

  • David

    The analysis is reasonably good though I feel it misses one key point, Unionism itself has been the biggest barrier to Loyalism moving away from paramilitarism. Every scenario always envisages the Loyalists giving up or going away. In truth when loyalists tried to politicise and move forward Unionism sought to bring the projects to a halt (UDP and PUP). Why? Because Unionism has always feared it’s own people far more than the Nationalists. Will a working class voice ever be permitted in Unionism………..Never, Never, Never. Unionist leaders will never allow the politicisation of Loyalist areas.
    Do we still believe they opposed Civil Rights because it would allow political growth within the Catholic community?
    The answer by the way is allow those who wish to move on to do so and any who will not advance cut them adrift and call them what they are,criminals (but then that would legitimise the term Loyalist and that would never be allowed).

  • inuit_goddess

    That said, I can’t resist a couple of quick points regarding the differing merits and demerits of the “Policing” and “Engagement” approach:

    i) I think “Engagement” is not a magic wand but it is the only long term solution if we are trying to end paramilitarism. Security solutions – the “policing” approach – just don’t work if paramilitaries are supported many in the host community and indeed can often be counterproductive.

    ii) “Engagement” with republicans has been an unequivocal success – albeit painstaking, frustrating and at times going backwards. I myself thought a lot of nasty things about John Hume when he started the Hume-Adams process, but I must give him credit now for helping to kickstart a rolling process which has culminated in both an all-but-complete IRA disarmament and, just as importantly, a discernible shift in republican thinking and ideology towards peaceful ‘struggle’ and away from the sterility of violence.

    iii) “Engagement” with loyalists has been much more painstaking, with far fewer rewards for the politicians who’ve gone down that path. The UUP-Ervine pact has probably damaged that party electorally – (it’s also why I have a real admiration for Reg for sticking to such an unpopular course) – also even if Reg succeeded, his reward will mostly be in heaven – I doubt there’s much practical electoral gain in it.

    iv) All that said, I would be more positive than fair_deal about engagement with loyalists, and where it’s likely to lead. Recent signs from both main loyalist paramilitaries would indicate they are thinking genuinely and seriously about the post-conflict transition – and on how to raise up and build confidence in deprived loyalist communities.

    From what fair_deal posted, I presume part 2 is going to be dealing more with these socio-economic issues and I do look forward to reading it.

  • Wendy

    I think David’s point about the need for real working-class influence within Unionism is well made.

    Both main unionist parties may have working-class support, but working-class interests get subordinated by both – by the ethnic nationalism of the DUP, and by the UUPs tendency to hop on whatever fur-coat bandwagon is passing by.

    I know Reg is a bit different as UUP leaders go – but just talking up buzzwords like social cohesion is no substitute for real actions and policies.

    They still cheerlead for grammar schools and looking at all this talk about rates, I bet they’ll support a rate cap too – the bottom 95% paying extra to subsidise the top 5% – social inclusion eat your heart out!

    Back to David’s point though – do the loyalists need their own movement (clearly the UDP and PUP have failed) or should they try to advance their through one or both of the main parties?

  • SlugFest

    “… and this Covenant with God made the use of violence legitimate.”

    FD, i’m not clear on your thought here: are you saying that Carson and his ilk believed that they had made a covenant with God and THEY believed that made the use of violence legitimate, or are you saying that YOU believe their use (or threat, as it turned out) of violence was legitimate?

    Also, i strongly disagree with your belief that, but for the “early UVF attacks in the 1960’s and less so the pan-nationalist front analysis of the early 1990s” that you noted in Endnote 2, loyalist violence was strictly reactionary. Most historians look at this cycle of the troubles as having started in the 1960s … and it was the bombings at Silent Valley and the murders of John Scullion and other Catholics in 1966 that ‘started’ this cycle.

  • Little Eva

    SlugFest
    This badly written “analysis” is shot through with those sorts of highly dubious, partial statements. It reads more like an apologia.

  • SlugFest

    Little Eva,

    Though i rarely agree with Fair Deal’s posts, i do usually find them well written and thought out. I was disappointed with this piece, though, and agree with your take on it.

    The entire piece is based on false premises and inaccuracies. The same can be said for Unionism — it is failing because its members have never been able to admit the overt and covert roles they played leading up to, during, and post the current cycle of the troubles.

  • fair_deal

    Eva

    “For centuries in Ireland both sides have harboured and nurtured “defenders” of one kind or another.”

    I didn’t say there haven’t been other organisations but the IRA has achieved a longevity others have not especially in comparison with their Loyalist equivalents.

    “Are you seriously suggesting that all a terrorist group has to do to be “successful” is raise funds and not anger its host community?”

    No I am not, that comment is in the context of fundraising.

    “Surely you do not really believe this.”

    I wrote it so yes but in endnote 2 I identify times when this has not been the case.

    Slugfest

    “are you saying that Carson and his ilk believed that they had made a covenant with God and THEY believed that made the use of violence legitimate”

    Yes

    “was strictly reactionary. Most historians look at this cycle of the troubles as having started in the 1960s … and it was the bombings at Silent Valley and the murders of John Scullion and other Catholics in 1966 that ‘started’ this cycle.”

    I said “primarily” not strictly reactionary. Also I specifically highlight the period you mention as a pro-active period.

    Aodh

    Expansion on your criticism would be welcome.

  • SlugFest

    FD,

    Given the nature of your piece and the ‘history’ you used to back up your arguments, it’s impossible not to debate with whatabouteries, so please bear with me.

    If you admit that the loyalist violence of the 1960s — the same violence which started this cycle of the troubles — was ‘proactive’, then wouldn’t you have to say that it was republican violence that was reactionary?

    The loyalists started this damn thing … to paint it any other way is an outright lie.

  • fair_deal

    Slugfest

    “then wouldn’t you have to say that it was republican violence that was reactionary?”

    1. It could have been but republicans deny such a scenario vehemently (not that pro-active or reactionary makes any difference to its victims).
    2. In something that lasts for over 30 years it cannot be assumed that the dynamics that started it and then perpetuated it are the same.

  • McGrath

    FD:

    I agree with some points, and disagree with others, but most of all I now have better understanding. More to follow.

    Little Eva:

    Lighten up, the guy is trying to to be a problem solver. A question in response to something you disagree with is more enlightening than a kick in the balls.

  • aquifer

    The drugs trade gives loyalist paramilitaries reach and a street presence no stump politician can match. In the end its about free cash. Discretionary spend. The young hoods got it, part-time elderly politicians ain’t.

    In Britain things are simple. Drugs dealers don’t shoot citizens or bother with politics. Politics is funded by big unions and big business and the enthusiasm of a middle class.

  • Little Eva

    McGrath
    Sorry if you feel that, unlike everyone else on here, Fair Deal should be able to post an “analysis” of our situation that is immune from criticism – especially given that he is fond of dishing it out himself when he feels like it. But there you go.

    But I will lighten up a bit. Just to say, I have read his attempted response to my points and they are miserable.

    I leave this thread with a prediction: His outline of a possible solution will boil down to little more than advocating that lots more money and resources should be pumped into the community sector where, coincidentally, he just happens to work.

  • You paint a bleak picture FD. Neither policing nor engagement will bring an end to loyalist paramilitary violence. Sadly, I fear that may be the end of the discussion.

  • fair_deal

    “His outline of a possible solution will boil down to little more than advocating that lots more money and resources should be pumped into the community sector where, coincidentally”

    You will be disappointed.

  • Bemu s e d

    Good article – fairly sound analysis and some enlightening pieces of perception. Well done Fair Deal.

  • lib2016

    Interesting that the role of British Intelligence is completely ignored, as well of course, as all the evidence of how deeply the so-called respectable face of unionism was implicated in the creation of the loyalist paramilitaries.

    One would never think for instance that both the present and immediately past leaders of the UUP were ex-paramilitaries themselves, and yes – Vanguard was a paramilitary organisation.

    Unionism clawed its way into British politics by the threat of illegal force, a threat that suited the Conservative Party of its day. That simply is no longer true and the British have reduced the threat from unionism to that from any ethnically based drug gang, of which there are lots in Britain itself.

    Despite FDs attempts to persuade us that the loyalist paramilitaries are still a force that is simply not true. Disarmed, leaderless and discredited they threaten only their own communities. That did not happen by accident and the work of MI5 and even more the FRU cries out for recognition. Seldom has any government liquidated their assets so expeditiously.

    Marks – 3/10 Must try and do better!

  • Alan

    An interesting, though limited analysis – I’ll await the second piece before I might comment further than the following points.

    1. The provisional movement defined a narrative and embellished it to suit the aims of the violent pursuit of a united ireland. It demonised very ordinary protestants in order to justify their murders as police or servants of a state that they found objectionable, Loyalist paramilitaries developed no such narrative. The fiction of their being soldiers developed by some while in prison answered no questions, and closed too many doors – theirs was but to do or die. While provisionalism grew out of the IRA, loyalist paramilitaries grew almost despite the unionist parties ( I say almost because the bold Doctor’s obscene toying with the third force is a clear example of this.).

    2. While I have no similar experience of the provisional IRA, I have always found that the loyalist paramilitaries set out to intimidate and were fearful of being challenged. One particular visit to the back room of Prisoner’s Aid on the Shankill to discuss a cross community meeting set my mind on that point.

    3. I have little trust for many of the leaders of loyalism, indeed some of them I have good reason to know are duplicitous, self interested and reckless of the needs of their own community.

    Yet they must be dealt with.

    That is why I have more respect for the approach of Reg Empey, than the shallow, self interested and easy rhetoric of the DUP. I respect Empey’s approach, but I doubt it’s efficacy: you can’t hope to benefit yourself from a process that suddenly makes claims to be altruistic.

    We have to share, rather than separate the responsibility to remove the loyalist paramilitaries. Let the DUP flog it’s lamentable, repentable horse. Let’s see a narrative from the Governments and all of the other parties that engages, yet gives an ultimatum to the loyalist paramilitaries that says “Walk away from this. Make your political arguments, but walk away.”

    There is no justification for their existence, just as there is no justification for other organisations which set out to undermine our democracy.

  • Harry

    If there is no justification for their existence Alan then why has there been a startling rise in loyalist paramilitarism over the last 10 years? Where has it come from?

  • lib2016

    ..startling rise in loyalist paramilitarism over the last 10 years?

    Ask the people who armed and managed it and who have now largely wound it up. We still have members of Team Ingram posting here rather than transfer to the Eastern Front….but not for much longer, one hopes.

  • Harry

    Seems to me loyalist paramilitarism has increased over recent years, not wound up. It seems to be connected to the apparent increase in flute bands across the north over the last 10 years, a phenomenon not unlike the formation of a number of militias. Seems northern ireland has the most musically inclined pseudo-soldiers anywhere to be found.

    Has there been an increase in flute bands, who has financed them, are they as closely associated with loyalist paramilitarism as often claimed and are they in effect new militias? For what purpose are they being formed? Is it some kind of quid pro quo (deliberate or unconscious) for changes to the RUC and the ‘ending’ of the RIR?

    Why has loyalist paramilitarism assumed a greater public profile than at anytime since the 70s and why is it being so assiduously courted and encouraged in its development by the powers that be, in London and Dublin?