Loyalist Decommissioning deadline extended

During the First World War the British launched repeated massed attacks on the German trenches: these episodes resulted in repeated mass causalities and the generals have been heavily criticised ever since for their actions. In fairness to them each time they tried slightly different tactics hoping that they would work. One problem which could never be easily overcome was the simple fact that technology in 1914-1918 always favoured a defending army. Trains could bring in reinforcements and munitions, telephones could coordinate defence. Attacking was dreadfully more difficult: internal combustion engines were only just able to power a very limited armoured tank, portable communications equipment was absent. Despite all these excuses the generals tactics were poor and more than anything after an attack began to go badly, they seemed unwilling to call a rapid halt to an offensive.

The news last week that the current British government is to give more time to the loyalists to decommission was as unsurprising as it was erroneous. The British government’s latest failure to deal properly with these groups and individuals effectively gives them a green light to continue to exercise their malign influence over working class Protestant areas for yet another year. In this case the government does not even change its tactics slightly but instead simply soldiers on with appeasement which would make Neville Chamberlain and Stanley Baldwin look like warmongers.
Exactly why the government continues with this bizarre policy towards the loyalist paramilitaries seems incomprehensible. This craven attitude to what were, are and will quite clearly continue to be, a group of deeply unpleasant criminals has been an unshakeable aspect of British government policy. Clearly not for Northern Ireland: “Tough on crime: tough on the causes of crime.” The abandonment of the working class unionist population held in thraldom by these criminals seems particularly sickening from a government supposedly to the left of centre and committed to helping the poorest sections of society. Again helping working class estates seems to be important throughout the UK unless it is on the Shankill Road; combating the tendency for youths to drift towards criminality matters unless the youths in question are from Kilcooley; tackling drug abuse is important unless the drug dealers in question are loyalists.

Part of the reason for this idiotic position may come from the naïve belief (coming down from the naïve idiot in chief) that the loyalist criminals in question were actually decent people with whom one could deal as one did with other “stakeholders” (to use that meaningless term). The British government are of course not unique in this attitude as Martin McAleese’s choice of golfing partner has demonstrated.

A somewhat more cynical analysis might also be proffered in that working class Ulster Protestants simply do not matter to the British government. In GB lower working class people are necessary voting fodder for New Labour, so despite the fact that some of its leaders may despise such people, some semblance of helping them must be maintained: certainly after the gloss began to wear off “Cool Britannia” they were needed to keep “The Project” going. Not so, of course, in Northern Ireland where people to whom Paul Smith is a man’s name rather than the minimum badge on an item of clothing, are of no importance even at election time. Our current secretary of state, of course, is a man so far removed from the realities of working class people’s lives that his analysis of their needs is likely to be as prescient as Marie Antoinette’s understanding of catering.

In this analysis the only working class people who matter are the loyalist criminals. Actually of course the paramilitaries are a special non working class of human vampires who feed off their victims usually destroying their lives except for the small number whom they make into clones of themselves. Loyalists paramilitaries might damage “The Process” if annoyed: best to let them continue their own activities, no New Labour votes in helping working class unionist communities.

In all this of course the mainstream unionist parties are far from innocent. The UUP seem happy to flirt with the PUP when not palsying up to David Cameron. Oh yes: actually some of them do not seem to mind if Mr. Cameron is in town. Meanwhile on the DUP side, Jeffrey Donaldson, that doyen of political morality; after a bit of political hand wringing agrees.

Of course there are also problems from the government’s own viewpoint in their current strategy: real problems, not the irrelevant ones of the blighting of poor people’s lives. The way they are treating the loyalist paramilitaries: a group with no mandate other than their guns, must surely give some hope to violent dissident republicans that if they keep going, the time will come when they get listened to. After all their level of support is considerably greater than that afforded to loyalist paramilitaries. Quite clearly the government are unwilling to face down the loyalist paramilitaries. Hence, the logic must be that republican paramilitaries need to continue and grow until they too can mutate into “reasonable” people for whom “the train” must wait.

A final factor which cannot be easily ignored is that the ongoing pandering to loyalist criminals gives some semblance of credence to the standard republican shibboleth that the loyalists were, all along, in the command and pay of the British government: why else would the government continue to tolerate their current actions? In reality the simpler explanation is more likely to be true: the government has always been utterly cowardly when dealing with people who in any other part of the United Kingdom would simply be regarded as criminals. That and the naïve idiocy that because organised criminals give their own mafia a set of letters as a name they must stand for something other than criminality. Shaun Woodward tells us that the train is leaving. However, in reality Mr. Woodward is, in this instance, actually more like Dr. Beeching and has removed the railway line in front of the train to ensure that the loyalists need never worry about its leaving. The fact that that means that the train will never reach the desired destination of Northern Ireland being a normal civilised society seems of little import to Mr. Woodward: I guess he is less troubled by loyalist paramilitaries than the residents of working class Protestant parts of Belfast.

  • Pete Baker

    “Loyalist Decommissioning deadline extended”

    Turgon,

    It had already been indicated that Feb 2010 would be the new, and improved, termination of service – as I pointed out..

  • cut the bull

    Sooner or later even the brit Govt will have to get embarrassed over the carry on regardless attitude displayed by loyalists in relation to retaining illegal arsenals of guns and explosives.
    I watched a report on BBC news the other night it showed Israeli cops and army removing jewish settlers from the town of Hebron after they had failed to move on a date set by the Govt.
    Batons were drawn and used and at one point the cops and army came under automatic fire.
    Could the scenario arise where the PSNI will have to move against loyalists who refuse to get rid of weapons.
    Was the writing which appeared on walls in East Belfast “Police Serving Nationalist Interests” a sign of where loyalists see the future of policing or was this just the work of some balloon with a paint brush.

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    Turgon,

    as you have been someone from the Unionist side of the fence who has consistently condemned ALL paramiltiary violence this must be particalrly galling. It will be interesting to hear the UU/Tory and DUP take on this. SF should have the sense to keep their heads down and it is usually left to the SDLP to express the outrage of the Nationalist community.

    But do you not think it is possible that this appeasement is based on something – intelligence, sound advice from someone that the paramilitries are still heading in the right direction? Otherwise, I agree, this seeems like a shocking decision.

  • veritas

    legally held arms….all arms dumps known….

    MI5 runs ALL loyalist groups and allows them to import drugs to circumvent having to “officially” pay them….

    also its always good to know who in Europe is buying and selling…

    Its the role of MI5 that should be under the spotlight.

  • OC

    “But do you not think it is possible that this appeasement is based on something – intelligence, sound advice from someone that the paramilitries are still heading in the right direction?”

    You may be right. How long was the IRA tolerated in the name of “heading in the right direction”?

    IMO it would depend on paramilitary groups activities. Are they participating in sectarian attacks using firearms and bombs? Have they morphed into Ordinary Decent Criminals?

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    OC,

    surely you are not suggesting equivalence between the IRA and loyalists – the IRA are now running the country for fecks sake.

  • Cahal

    Wait until nationalists become a majority in the north. Then you’ll see the loyalist/UDR guns again.

  • frustrated democrat

    Cahal

    We don’t have much to worry about then!

    I am disgusted that these gangsters unelected by anyone can masquerade as defenders of their communities when at the same time dealing in drugs, other criminality and extorting money and the Government is happy to play ball.

    After 30 odd years we have more than enough of this.

  • edward

    Good analasys Turgon

    Pete being the first with gossip only matters on the play ground Turgon’s piece is much superior to you offering

  • cut the bull

    Having relinquished all responsibility towards the welfare of its citizens,the Brit govt should do the decent thing and pay for signs to be erected in working class housing estsates under the control of so called loyalist defenders.

    “Arbiet Macht Frei under the protection UVF and UDA”

  • Earnan

    I don’t understand…I thought the British were involved in NI to stop the two warring tribes from killing each other. Why would they want to leave one of the tribes warriors with weapons??

  • OC

    “surely you are not suggesting equivalence between the IRA and loyalists – the IRA are now running the country for fecks sake.” – Sammy

    Perhaps a certain similarity between the ghost of paramilitary past and the ghost of paramilitary present, i.e. a fully armed, and active IRA isn’t officially recognized as being in NI gov’t.

    As to the “reformed” IRA (aka SF), being in gov’t, that was the payoff for forsaking the Armalite, no?

    As being less of a threat to the “union”, the UK gov’t can only have later begun the same process on loyalist paramilitary groups. Perhaps a full IRA-style decommissioning of loyalist arms isn’t too far off.

    But none of this addressess criminality, which paramilitary groups of all persuasions participate in, even if political/sectarian violence funds are no longer a top priority.

    So enjoy the evolution from a Kashmir-like setting, to a Sicilian-like existance.

  • Kathy C

    posted by Kathy C

    Hi all—
    History shows the british only care about other peoples guns…like the American weapons at Concord Massachusetts during the Revolutionary War and the british only cared about the Irish Republican weapons…. if the brits really cared about getting rid of the loyalist guns they would have been gone years ago…

  • Buster

    This is something which cannot be justified.

    Turgon’s analysis of complete Labour disinterest and the contempt with which the Protestant working class is held in sounds all too plausible. And not only Labour-the point has been raised above-it will be interesting to see what the UUP/Tory and DUP response to this is.

    The longer thugs with guns are part of NI society the more the pretence of “normality” will be perpetuated.

  • harpo

    “The British government’s latest failure to deal properly with these groups and individuals”

    Turgon:

    That was a very long opening post, long in detail but short in sense.

    Like many people you blame HMG for the situation regarding loyalist decommissioning. You then go on to have a go at the unionist parties.

    But you miss the point. Neither HMG nor the unionist parties can do anything to make the loyalists decommission, just as the Irish government and the nationalist parties can’t do anything to get those Irish terrorist groups that chose to hang on to their weapons to decommission.

    All the talk of moral persuasion is nonsense. These groups don’t care.

    There was one opportunity to get these groups to decommission, and that was back when the post-GFA prisoner releases were done. The deal should have been ‘your prisoners get released after you fully decommission’. But that wasn’t the deal. Instead prisoners were released with a simple promise of personal and group good behaviour.

    Once the prisoners had been released the opportunity was gone to get decommissioning in most cases. The one exception was in the case of the Provos who wanted the political power that the vote for their political wing ‘entitled’ them to. In their case it was only the persistent demands of unionists that there had to be decommissioning before the Provos got their power that ensured that the Provos were forced to decommission.

    Do you really think that the Provos would have decommissioned of their own free will if they had been handed political power with no strings attached.

    In case you didn’t notice the peace deal that was signed up to does not require decommissioning. That’s one big reason that the DUP did not sign up to it in 1998. All the deal required was that the parties would do their best to get the various groups to decommission.

    I’ll say it again. There was no requirement to decommission. If you voted for the GFA that’s what you voted for. For no requirement to decommission.

    Now at the time a lot of nonsense was talked about decommissioning happening in time anyway, but what did people who voted for the GFA really think? That these groups who had killed and committed crime for years would suddenly voluntarily hand over all their weapons for no other reason than people would like them to do so? Anyone who thought that was deluded in 1998 and still is deluded if they think that these groups give a monkeys.

    I thus can’t understand why HMG gets the blame now when the issue is raised. The blame sits with the parties and people who approved of the deal and voted for the deal. Nobody else.

    I find it amusing that for all the whining back then from many nationalists that decommissioning was a red herring (when the issue of PIRA decommissioning was raised) and that it was unrealistic for unionists to demand PIRA decommissioning, that it was only due to the actions of unionists that the PIRA DID decommission. It was a unionist demand back in 1993/4 and it eventually happened.

    Contrast that with all the complaints for years from nationalists that the loyalists had to be dealt with. Supposedly nationalist civilians was the group that suffered most during the Troubles. The loyalists had to be disarmed. So what happens when peace negotiations start and go on for years? Did PSF and the SDLP make loyalist decommissioning one of the main planks of their peace negotiating position? Strangely enough, no they didn’t.

    My question to this is always ‘why?’. You had the chance to deal with the biggest issues for nationalists, yet you don’t demand that the loyalists be forced to decommission, by using the leverage of something like no prisoner releases until the weapons are handed over? To me that was unbelievable, and can only be explained in 1 of 2 ways.

    Either loyalists having weapons wasn’t actually that big an issue for nationalists, or the nationalist parties are incompetent and forgot about it. In the case of the Provos it’s maybe more understandable, since they wanted to keep their weapons and couldn’t go asking for general decommissioning, but what happened to the SDLP? Amnesia?

  • harpo

    “Could the scenario arise where the PSNI will have to move against loyalists who refuse to get rid of weapons.”

    cut the bull:

    What are you proposing? Internment?

    The peace deal did not require decommissioning. That’s the problem.

    So what exactly are you proposing that the police do to loyalists? For any loyalist to be arrested they would have to commit some crime. What if they don’t commit any more crime than they have been committing so far? Do you start wholesale roundups and charge them all with membership?

    Or maybe you round up all the prisoners who were released, even though decommissioning wasn’t part of the terms on anyone’s release.

    I keep on hearing these calls for ‘something to be done’, so let’s hear it. Exactly what is that that you people want to be done?

  • harpo

    “IMO it would depend on paramilitary groups activities. Are they participating in sectarian attacks using firearms and bombs? Have they morphed into Ordinary Decent Criminals?”

    OC:

    Excellent points.

    The whole peace process was built on a method of not annoying the bad people too much in case they started slaughtering people in large numbers again. So long as they only engaged in low level activity that was acceptable.

    Decommissioning was not demanded as the price for prisoner releases. The current situation was what people voted for.

    I can understand people wanting everyone to decommission but it was not asked for when the good people had some leverage.

    So here we are today. If the loyalist weapons are not being used to slaughter Catholic then hasn’t the objective been achieved?

    I don’t see what benefit there is in possibly provoking the loyalists to make a point by killing a bunch of Catholics if the authorities come down hard on them all of a sudden, just so that we can all see technical decommissioning.

    Shouldn’t relatively peaceful loyalist criminal gangs be left alone so long as they aren’t slaughtering masses of Catholics? Isn’t that what the peace process has been built on so far? Why fuck with that model now? It’s worked so far.

  • harpo

    “I am disgusted that these gangsters unelected by anyone can masquerade as defenders of their communities when at the same time dealing in drugs, other criminality and extorting money and the Government is happy to play ball.

    After 30 odd years we have more than enough of this.”

    frustrated democrat:

    So you are against the whole basis of the peace process as it has functioned so far?

    Can I ask if you voted for the GFA? If so, this is what you voted for. Peace, as defined as ‘not slaughtering the other side’, plus mass acceptance of a policy of going soft on the criminals, on the basis that letting them be just criminals is better than having them out slaughtering people.

    It’s great for people to now be calling for no criminality, full decommissioning etc etc, but it’s all pie in the sky. If you had held out all along for perfection the Troubles would still be going.

  • harpo

    “I don’t understand…I thought the British were involved in NI to stop the two warring tribes from killing each other. Why would they want to leave one of the tribes warriors with weapons??”

    Earnan:

    The people approved a peace deal that left everyone with their weapons.

    Only the Provos decommissioned. But both sides still have weapons. The PIRA was not the only republican terrorist group in case you didn’t know.

    The peace deal was built on the basis of leaving the bad people with their weapons so long as they didn’t use them to slaughter the other tribe. And that’s what people voted for.

  • harpo

    “The longer thugs with guns are part of NI society the more the pretence of “normality” will be perpetuated.”

    Buster:

    You must be holding out for some odd utopia that deosn’t exist anywhere else. Organized criminal gangs with arms exist in even the most developed societies. Even in the USA. So I don’t see how you work out that it isn’t a normal situation.

    As for it being a situation that can’t be justified, take it up with the people who voted for the GFA. They approved this situation.

    Of course everyone wants the government to do something now about a situation that the parties negotiated and the people approved.