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 Parkinsons disease died aged 79. It is sad that although Rev. Magees 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.
This author has not written a biography and will not be writing one.