Martin McGuiness assertion at this weekends Sinn Fein Ard Fheis that the northern state was no longer an Orange state but an Orange and Green one is no doubt based on a recognition that the Good Friday Agreement and subsequent developments have cemented power-sharing in the state as well as that of the Irish nationalist identity alongside that of British unionism. However, the latest episode of judicial leniency with regard to the sentencing of loyalists (and here) suggests that reforming the judiciary remains the most formidable obstacle to developing that Orange and Green state (though, admittedly, the PSNI remain a work in progress.)
The case of the two loyalists- one a PSNI employee and another employed by controversial Ballymena firm, Wrightbus, has been covered on Slugger before. The two loyalists- one pictured on the front of todays Irish News giving two fingers to the camera- were freed after being found guilty of collecting details from a PSNI database on catholics in the Randalstown/ Toome area.
Justice McLaughlin concluded that he was satisfied the details had not been gathered for a paramilitary purpose. The PSNI employee, Aaron Hill, received a suspended sentence and Darren Richardson got off with a one year sentence (which he had already served on remand.) A PSNI officer blamed a change in legislation for not being able to charge Richardson with UVF membership (see Irish News article linked above.)
Both are prominent members of the Randalstown Sons of Ulster Flute Band, which was honoured with a plaque and Council reception last year by the UUP Mayor of Antrim, Adrian Watson, commemorating the 20th anniversary of the bands formation.
An indication of the mentality of some band members can be gauged by this excerpt from the bands official website:
The band’s loyalism is a thorn in the side of the majority of Nationalists and Republicans in Randalstown. The band’s hope is that this thorn remains, although the fight is getting harder, the members will thrive on continually showing their religion in the town.
Slugger readers will remember that loyalist figures in the area- alongside unionist politicians- collaborated with Antrim Council officers to pioneer the concept of council-funded
lamppost-pi**ing spots Loyalist flagpoles at a number of sites in the loyalist Neillsbrook estate in the town- some clearly intent on continuing that fight….