Loyalist decommissioning: chasing the phantasm

Last Thursday Secretary of State Shaun Woodward explained his latest (so called) final position on loyalist decommissioning on Good Morning Ulster (here 1 hour 4mins in). The SoS has suggested that he is giving “one last chance for the loyalists to decommission. Of course the problem is that the loyalists have had a number of “last chances.” Currently he is trying to suggest that “Given the specific advice I’m being given, they are currently engaged in meaningful dialogue.” He added this would result in weapons being “removed from the streets.” He also said:
“If that is our goal, it would be very foolish of me to ignore that very strong advice.”
Of course we have all been here before: Woodward and Hain before him have told us that the loyalists were being given “one last chance” on innumerable occasions. No one least of all the loyalist paramilitaries will believe this latest deadline from Woodward. To bolster his extremely weak “one last chance” argument Woodward has suggested that he is taking advice from the Independent International Commission for Decommissioning (IICD) and that they are in meaningful discussions with loyalists terrorists. I suspect we have heard that one or a variant of it previously as well.

In the context of the ongoing criminal behavior of loyalist paramilitaries it is a sad irony that one of the deeply decent men who tried to get them to stop killing people died this week. Rev. Roy Magee who had been suffering from Parkinson’s disease died aged 79. It is sad that although Rev. Magee’s actions may have helped contribute to the loyalists so called ceasefires they have continued to indulge in drug dealing, prostitution etc. and of course the sectarian murders of Thomas Devlin and Lisa Dorrian.

Maybe one day the government will try the stick approach rather than the carrot. The problem of course is that we have heard all this before. As I have previously suggested a major problem is that loyalist paramilitaries are now largely oppressing working class Protestant communities and the government does not care in the slightest about such communities. Nor it appears do they care about the odd murder. In such circumstances, unsurprisingly, loyalists have little incentive to do anything but continue with their current actions. Maybe just maybe Woodward is telling the truth this time.

  • picador


    Thanks for raising this important but oft neglected issue.

    What is Jim Allister’s stance on loyalist decommissioning?

    a major problem is that loyalist paramilitaries are now largely oppressing working class Protestant communities and the government does not care in the slightest about such communities

    The same might be said for unionist politicians who appear to take these communities for granted.

    What ever resulted from Peter Robinson’s engagement with the paramilitaries? Perhaps the First Minister is the source of the “specific advice” that Woodward has received. I look forward to seeing some end product. However I won’t be holding my breath.

  • Padraig

    It was Unionist terrorist violence such as the Curragh Mutiny and the setting up of the old and modern UVF that set up a Protestant State for a Protestant people and its the threat of Unionist terrorism that maintains it.

    As far as British interests go you don’t bite the terrorist hand that feeds you.

    How could it be otherwise???

  • cut the bull

    Are these weapons or the people who pocess them and at times use them a realistic threat to the Union or every day life in England?

    Is the British Government genuinely concerned about Unionist/Loyalist weapons?

  • mlr

    At some point should there not be tangible consequences for refusing to move forward with decommissioning?

    In debates concerning the lack of attention on Loyalist decommissioning in the Good Friday talks, it was argued that Loyalist paramilitaries were to follow suit as the IRA decommissioned. However, they obviously did not do so.

    Their politicians cannot be kept out of government or peace talks, as was the case with Sinn Fein. Now what is there that can be held over the heads of the Loyalist paramilitaries to force their hand?

  • Turgon

    I would have thought the best option would be for the police to mount operations targeted at recovering weapons: that would no doubt lead to “spontaneous” protests by the so called local community (ie the criminals) but would I suggest be welcomed by most of the actual people in the community and would send a very clear message. Those weapkns should then be forensically tested and if possible prosecutions persued.

    The other option I would like to see explored is attempts to revoke the licences of criminals who are associating with known criminals. However, not being a lwayer I am unsure of the legal technicalities around that one.

  • RepublicanStones

    Is there any more room on the gravy train that would entice these guys to break out the blue circle?

  • cut the bull

    Their politicians cannot be kept out of government or peace talks, as was the case with Sinn Fein. Now what is there that can be held over the heads of the Loyalist paramilitaries to force their hand?

    The PUP MLA could be kept out of the Assembly but wether that would acheieve any thing, I’m not so sure.
    The DUP which has close links to the Ulster Resistance Movement. As leading members of the DUP founded this movement.




    The DUP should be doing more to lobby this group to make a start by calling a ceasefire as this group has yet to declare such an intention.
    The DUP could go further and lobby the Ulster Resistance Movement to then begin decommisioning. its weapons

  • cut the bull

    The Dup could also ask its former Bangor Councillor Billy Baxter who was convicted in 1993 of extortion on behalf of the UVF if he could be of any assistance in helping lobby the UVF in relation to decommisioning.


  • Ulsters my homeland

    I think loyalist paramilitaries should decommission all their old rusted guns and ammunition, and do it publicly.

    No point giving up the guns that work, especially when the IRA didn’t give up their russian guns and semtex.

  • Earnan


    the Provos gave up the vast bulk of their stores that were not in the hands of so called dissidents.

    How many people have the Provos shot with russian guns or blown up with semtex since GFA??? In fact, how many has the organization shot or blwon up with any weaponry?

    I think the issue here is that the Loyalist paramilitaries only pose a threat to working class Protestants at this time. They don’t represent any threat to the state, thus the security forces could care less about them giving up their weaponry.

    It also could get dicey if British security forces attempted to forcibly remove the weapons in raids, as they were the ones who helped purchase the weaponry for the gangs in the first place.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Come, now, Turgon… you’re ignoring the realities of the situation.

    These hoods would have to find some sort of honest employment were they to give up their guns.

  • Greagoir O Frainclin

    This Unionist/Loyalist decommissioning of illegal arms debacle is timeworn too.

    Perhaps, should just leave them be with their ‘peoples guns.’ They’re bound to be outdated and rusty old weapons too as the UMH has said.

    (Just off the topic, I just read that the British Challenger tank was initially designed and built for export, intended for the Shah’s Iran. The deal fell through due to the 1979 Islamic revolution.)

    Maybe given these credit crunch times the arms industry is where the money and employment is. There’s always a war on somewhere in the world. Those Unionist/Loyalist lads might get a good deal for those guns too, if they decided to sell!

  • fin

    Greagoir, everything was on ice for years because of unionism refuses to accept this very solution to republican arms,

    Possibly it is the right solution but there should be strings attached, any weapons uncovered after a deadline should undergo forensics and charges brought where possible, and a general jacking up on sentences handed out for anyone caught with an illegal weapon.

    I would have thought that these guys would have an eye on the possiblity that when they do get around to decommissioning there may well be a nationalist P&J;minister, which would surely be an a awkward situation for them.

  • Ulsters my homeland


    “[i]the Provos gave up the vast bulk of their stores that were not in the hands of so called dissidents [/i]

    hope you don’t mind me splitting your sentence into two different subjects.

    ….as for the Provo weapons, The media tells us they gave up all their weapons, so why do you think it important to talk about the vast bulk of their weaponery?

    “[i]that were not in the hands of so called dissidents.”[/i]

    Here we have the conundrum, enter (Carol Vorderman).

    If the IRA were so serious about pursuing a peaceful solution, why did they allow members to steal their weapons? why did they give vulnerable individuals the responsibility of storing their arms?

  • Ulsters my homeland

    Hi Greg, if you’re going to refer to me in your posts please do the honourable thing and not refer to me as an item, like “as [u]the[/u] UMH has said.”