A couple of details stand out from Henry McDonald’s report in today’s Observer. The first, and most obvious, is that Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has approved a grant of “€4,000 for a piece of artwork to commemorate the link between the 16th Irish and the 36th Ulster Divisions” in Mount Vernon. The spokesman for the Department of the Taoiseach said “The aim of the fund is to assist and encourage the development of local organisations”. The ‘community’ organisation involved is headed by former UVF prisoner and ex-councillor Billy Hutchinson. However there is already an existing fund of £3.3million, set up last year by the NIO, for such projects.The second detail is the report of a meeting on July 10th between a Department of Foreign Affairs official, Aine de Baroid – who was reported to have been under threat from elements within the UDA last year – with the leadership of that illegal organisation.. that would be this leadership of that illegal organisation.
According to the report
The Observer can also reveal that an official of the Republic’s Department of Foreign Affairs, Aine de Baroid, who was subjected to a loyalist death threat, met the UDA on Belfast’s Shankill Road this month. The groundbreaking meeting took place at a community centre near the Lower Shankill, heartland of exiled loyalist boss Johnny ‘Mad Dog’ Adair.
Loyalist sources said it was held on 10 July to discuss how the Irish government could revive loyalist working-class areas. The two sides also talked about the loyalist marching which turned out to be one of the most peaceful in decades.
Several UDA commanders from west and north Belfast attended the discussion with Irish officials including De Baroid. She has engaged with the UDA leadership for several years but was subject to a death threat from extremists. This time, however, members of the illegal organisation stood guard outside the community house on the Shankill Road to ensure her safety.
UDA leaders including overall commander Jackie McDonald have a strong relationship with De Baroid and her team. However the UDA is still riven by factionalism which threatens to erupt into violence. The mainstream UDA is in conflict with the south-east Antrim brigade which refuses to recognise McDonald’s leadership.