UVF ends its own forty one year old existence

So, finally, Captain William Johnston has made what looks like his last political act. If only for the sake of history, it should be noted that ‘Johnston”s first victim was not Peter Ward, as is still widely believed and reported, but a young Catholic storeman called John Patrick Scullion – killed two weeks earlier. His death was first thought to have been a result of a hit-and-run accident. There was a considerable degree of shock when responsibility for his killing was claimed only after his funeral by an anonymous caller (ie, “CWJ”) to the Belfast Telegraph offices, who added that war was now declared on the IRA. His body had to be exhumed to discover the true cause of death.

In its forty one year history, UVF gave rise to both the most progressive figures within Loyalism, and the most ruthless. But as Máirtín Ó Muilleoir points out, from a political point of view, it is only two cheers, not three. The question lingers as to why they would not co-ordinate with John de Chastelain? It’s not a huge surprise: David Ervine told Slugger back in February 2003:

“Paramilitarism is dying and will wither on the vine. But I believe in dispersal not disbandment because I think they are too frightened to disband”.

The removal of the name, may in the long term allow the PUP’s new leader to claim that the millstone link with the UVF is now finally dissipated. It remains to be seen whether the party will view any remaining ‘ex officio’ paramilitary activity on the ground in the way Ervine suggested back in 2003: “They are a matter now for the policing service and a society to take on and deal with”.

Adds: The Sun says: “They only renounced violence after Dr Ian Paisley’s courageous decision to sit alongside Republicans in an historic new shared administration. He’s made peaceful politics the only game in town. The UVF may be nasty and brutish, but — like the IRA — they’re not stupid”.

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  • I think the sheer viciousness of Gusty Spence, coupled with the influential effects of his murder campaign are not always given due weight when analysis is made of the commencement of The Troubles.

    In the 2 or 3 years prior to the inception of The Civil Rights Movement, a quite volatile and highly charged situation was beginning to emerge in Belfast and other areas of The North. The murders committed by Spence and his UVF Unit had greatly ‘upped’ the ante in terms of the seriousness of the conditions being experienced by most Catholics in The North. ie discrimination in Housing, Employment and widespread Gerrymandering.

    In many ways the totally random and blatantly sectarian nature of the murders committed by Spence and his cohorts had a hugely negative effect on attempts by The Unionist Government to dispel the ever-growing complaints of discrimination which were now attracting both national and international interest.

    These murders had no political logic or intent. They were a demonstration of the pure hatred of Catholics/Nationalists which had been drummed into the citizens of areas like The Shankill for generations. In many ways Gusty Spence became the epitome and symbol for such hatred, and his murderous actions only served to give additional levearge to the fledgeling and somewhat dis-organised Civil Rights Movement which was now beginning to emerge.

  • Baudrillard

    its – decommission that apostrophe in the title please

  • Gum

    Why do we induldge murderers? He’s no captain. Why should we give him legitimacy?

  • Mick Fealty

    Along with ‘P O’Neill’, he doesn’t ‘exist’ either Gum.

  • Gum

    Haha, shows what I know 😉 Thanks Mick.

  • missfitz

    The UVF is going to cease to exist as a terrorist organisation, but there has been no indication that it is going to cease to exist.

    I think this is an important distinction. The UVF is not 41 years old, it is 95 years old. Now, theres no point telling me about the differences in the 1912/1914 UVF and the present day organisation, I know all of that, but to the men in the UVF they see a seamless inheritance between them and their forebears.

    In the Maze, Gusty Spence had a reputation for trying to get the men to see beyond the ‘act’ that got them there, to look for a causation. He tried to instill a sense of purpose other than criminality. This was trying to keep forging the link between past and present for them.

    So, the UVF may be standing down and ceasing intelligence gathering, ordinance, targetting and other activity, but they havent said they are going away.

  • Miss Fitz-

    “The UVF is not 41 years old, it is 95 years old.”

    No, it was formed in the 1960s. Regardless of whether the latter day UVF members see ‘a seamless inheritance’ with the UVF of old, it quite simply does not exist. I could set up an organisation called the Irish Citizen Army tomorrow, but by no stretch of the imagination could I claim it was the same organisation headed by Connolly in 1916- it may inherit traits from the original organisation, but that’s not the same as having carried-on seamlessly since 1916.

  • missfitz

    El Mat
    I would be horrified to see you in the ICA. Thats much more suited to little old ladies like myself. 🙂

    I am not arguing on behalf of the UVF, simply making the case as I know it is seen form within the organisation.

    It is critical to know where people are coming from if we wish to understand and move on.

  • Missfitz,
    It’s also important to realise that the UVF of 1916 was a very differnt organisation from the UVF formed in the 1960s.

    I wonder how many of the modern day UVF would have been prepared to fight a “war” inwhich the enemy could fire back like on 1st July.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    missfitz: “The UVF is going to cease to exist as a terrorist organisation, but there has been no indication that it is going to cease to exist. ”

    Let us wait for a little proof… simply putting their weapons atop the ice-box and making a statement means little — a glimmer of hope at best. It doesn’t mean the tiger has shed its stripes.

  • miss fitz

    I am not in any way defending or promoting the UVF. I’m just trying to be reasonable and critical of what has been said. Indeed, I have been one of the few people pointing out that this organisation will more than likely continue to exist in the short term at least within the context of its previous historical guise.

  • comment

    I have no time for them but hope this statement works out, however I am glad they are not going away, same as the IRA army council, sure it would be better if they didnt exist but given where we are and the fact that this process needs to be managed Iam glad they are both staying around……cutting loose all those ‘volunteers’ loyalist and republican would be anarchy