No guns, no money- or not???

Margaret Ritchie’s ‘last chance saloon’ speech to the UDA certainly sounded tough and unequivocal, but already the details of her ultimatum seem to be unravelling, if the confident assertions of some loyalists are to be believed. In her speech, the Minister for Social Development clearly stated that funding would be withdrawn unless the UDA “has started to decommission its weapons.”
Yet a quite relaxed UPRG spokesperson, Frankie Gallagher, has repeated on numerous occasions throughout the day that the Minister has not called for UDA decommissioning to have commenced within the 60 day period- a point further elaborated upon by our very own loyalist ‘insider’ commenter, Loftholdingswood, on another thread. The confusion has been picked up by Gareth Gordon on tonight’s BBC Newsline.There is a rationale for maintaining the funding programme. For the first time, a pressure lever has been created to incentivise the UDA into moving towards decommissioning and ending their various activities. The Minister could theoretically stagger the funding to create pressure points from henceforward to ensure momentum towards full decommissioning and the ending of all other activities is maintained.

But the price of this programme has been to link dealing with social deprivation in loyalist areas with the activities of the UDA, a cynical move by the NIO which followed logically from the similarly regrettable decision to deal with socio-economic needs of unionist areas as a distinct area of funding, following pressure from unionist political parties. All of which has meant that the work being done through this initiative to address the needs of loyalist communities is being directly linked with the UDA.

The problem with this, of course, is that social and economic deprivation should be addressed objectively by the Department of Social Development on the basis of targeting social need wherever it is required, not categorising and prioritising funding using exclusive- and horridly crude- labels such as PUL (protestant, unionist or loyalist) or, heaven forbid, a CNR equivalent. The problem for the Minister will be that, once such funding initiatives have been commenced and paid employees tasked with improving the social/economic condition of a particular area, to then pull the plug on such a programme because of the actions of individuals who really couldn’t give a damn about the condition of the ordinary working-class loyalist district, will justifiably be regarded as harsh by local people- not to mention staff members.

The answer to the dilemma is, of course, to return to the basic principles of targeting social need in an objective manner so that local communities benefit from government funding regardless of the nefarious activities of the UDA or any other body for that matter.

I wouldn’t be too harsh on Margaret Ritchie because she has inherited a tricky situation and is clearly attempting to turn it to her advantage. But in the long term, it will be vitally important for her to re-assert the principle of objectivity regarding the targeting of social need within her Department. Certainly, in this incident, it would ensure that non-UDA activists residing in loyalist working-class communities with acute social and economic needs would not be punished due to the actions of the UDA.

  • Garibaldy

    Much as it pains me to be flippant, does anyone else think that photo looks like John White in a wig?

  • Trueblue

    Indeed money for socially deprived communities should go to government and community initiatives in those communities and not to gansters who leech off those communities.
    I can’t argue with your analysis.

  • Trueblue

    And yes it does look a bit like John White in a wig. 🙂

  • DC

    Yes, very Gestapo-ish.

  • DC

    Oh and I thought the ‘Alexandra Bar’ was the last chance saloon, anyway the ‘Diddi-As’ will love any saloon available.

  • DC

    My final-final last after thought – Ritchie’s statement should have been ‘last chance shebeen’, they would have understood that a bit better me thinks.

  • Liam

    Yes, I don’t see why funding to relieve deprivation should be given to the UDA. I doubt they truly represent the communities they inhabit and even if they did those communities should not receive treatment different from any other community with similar needs. Good analysis.

  • Chris-

    “But in the long term, it will be vitally important for her to re-assert the principle of objectivity regarding the targeting of social need within her Department.”

    I don’t think anyone could argue anything other than that Margaret has admirably crossed the sectarian divide since she took office in terms of identifying and prioritising specific areas of social need for action. Indeed she did inherit numerous problems from the direct misrulers, but bit by bit she is deconstructing their mess and creating a department and personal involvement which is targeted at addressing the needs of the whole community.

    In regard to this particular project and its funding- presumably the threat levelled at the UDA is as strong as legally possible, especially given that people’s jobs are on the line. Let’s face it, the UDA is no friend of the SDLP, and as such I can’t see Margaret doing them any favours above and beyond what is necessary.

  • joeCanuck

    Deprived areas which need funding should get it, obviously.
    But it is only right and proper that it should be impossible for paramilitary organizations to get their hands on it in any way.

  • joeCanuck

    That includes front organizations too.

  • Dawkins

    El Matador,

    Your point about Margaret’s ability to sort out the mess left to her is well made.

    We’re in for some interesting times ahead, as NI politicians get the chance to show their abilities — finally, after years of direct rule. If Margaret continues as she started then it can only reflect well on her party. Who knows but the next election will bring a very different distribution of power.

  • justthoughtidask

    “We’re in for some interesting times ahead, as NI politicians get the chance to show their abilities—finally, after years of direct rule.”

    They have a great chance as well to show if they have any b**ls.

  • Prince Eoghan

    As the Trow has pointed out on another thread;

    http://www.socialistworker.co.uk/art.php?id=12688

    Perhaps the British government should just cut the crap and pay their erstwhile minions a proper redundancy package for services rendered, now no longer needed.

    Now! it’s 1 times years for every year below aged 41 and 1.5 times years for all above aged 42. Times by £310 and Boab’s yir uncle!

    I reckon that these Loyalists should just appeal to the European Court of Justice who can override any local legislation. Best of luck for work carried out with the best of intentions, not always with much success. Makes you wonder just who the terrorists were exactly?

  • Dawkins

    Justthoughtidask,

    “They have a great chance as well to show if they have any b**ls.”

    Isn’t Caitriona Ruane a formidable tennis player? :0)

  • Comrade Stalin

    Republicans are so hypocritical :

    There is a rationale for maintaining the funding programme. For the first time, a pressure lever has been created to incentivise the UDA into moving towards decommissioning and ending their various activities. The Minister could theoretically stagger the funding to create pressure points from henceforward to ensure momentum towards full decommissioning and the ending of all other activities is maintained.

    This is right. But when this trick was used on the IRA, Sinn Fein said that creating preconditions was wrong and would not work, that the IRA would not respond to preconditions, that the IRA would make it’s mind up by itself. Why would it work on loyalists ?

    I wouldn’t be too harsh on Margaret Ritchie because she has inherited a tricky situation and is clearly attempting to turn it to her advantage.

    Margaret Ritchie isn’t speaking for herself, she’s speaking on behalf of the Executive which includes Sinn Fein ministers. I find it hard to believe that they had no input into the statement issued yesterday. Perhaps you should ask them ?

    I’m just glad that somebody in the executive has the courage to stand up and say that the UDA need to be stood up to.

  • Dawkins

    CS,

    “I’m just glad that somebody in the executive has the courage to stand up and say that the UDA need to be stood up to.”

    Amen.

  • oldruss

    Regardless of the wisdom or lack thereof of giving millions of pounds sterling to the UDA under any conditions, if one listens to Frankie Gallagher, the UPRG spokesperson, who, it can be argued, speaks for the UDA in situations such as this, the UDA is already meeting whatever criteria Margaret Ritchie has set for handing out the money.

    Are there no social organizations, no government agencies, no community groups other than the UDA through which these funds could be directed, so that those whose lives are supposed to be improved by this NIO iniative can receive help? What about the Protestant churches? Why could these funds not be funneled through local churches, for example, which would reach a wider community than limiting these funds for distribution by the UDA?

    It seems to me to be quite foolish to empower the UDA in this manner. How can a proscribed organization become the instrument for a social welfare program that is sponsored by the government? Giving the unionist community as a whole the benefit of the doubt, if the UDA does not represent the thinking of the unionist community, aren’t the very people whom this program is supposed to help only being further subjected to yet another form of control by these terrorists?

  • DC

    There may also be an issue with the Government in many ways stigmatising those community workers who work for ‘Farset’. Not all are UDA members I imagine, so those employees are a little bit stranded if they don’t get the funds and have to seek further work with Farset on their CV. Interesting.

    Ritchie has pretty much tarred them with the criminality brush exacerbating the problem by linking Farset administration to the decommissioning of this particular illegal organisation.

    A tad discriminatory wouldn’t ya think but perhaps justified for the greater good of the community at large.