Thoughts on loyalist decommissioning

So the loyalist criminals have decommissioned: I suppose that has to be welcomed (except of course they have not decommissioned fully but I will return to that). It is pleasing that at least some of the weapons that these people illegally held have now been “put beyond use” though I would prefer destroyed and that after forensic testing so there would be some chance of that information being put to good use in the prosecution of the criminals who possessed or used these firearms.
Turning first to the Ulster Volunteer Force. Let us initially remind ourselves of the crimes committed by the UVF: here is the briefest of résumés by the BBC. They were formed with the expressed intention of executing “mercilessly and without hesitation” known IRA men. Of course to start this “ideal” itself was utterly immoral and evil, they had absolutely no mandate to do this, the vast majority of people they murdered had nothing to do with the IRA and self evidently where there were so many murderers such as in Fermanagh they made practically no appearance. Safer and more fun to cut up random Catholics in Belfast than actually protect anyone (except their own criminal enterprises), not that anyone asked for their protection.

When they announced their ceasefire Gusty Spence (murderer of Peter Ward) said “In all sincerity, we offer to the loved ones of all innocent victims over the past 25 years abject and true remorse.” Indeed Spence asked Mr. Ward’s mother for forgiveness and she appears to have given that. Such an act from Mrs. Ward is deeply laudable: infinitely more so than Spence’s request; what we need to focus on is the fact that he had committed a crime at all. Even taking Spence and co’s apology at face value, it is, however, utterly half hearted: they have defined post hoc their “innocent victims” and make no apology for the murders they claim to have been of “non-innocent victims;” as if they, the UVF, held a fair trial and appeals process. If they apologised for all the crimes they committed (murders and others) that might be slightly more laudable. Even that, however, leaves aside the fact that one of the so called political representatives of the UVF, Billy Hutchinson (himself the murderer of two boys in 1974) has been arrested over the Thomas Devlin murder enquiry. Exactly why that has not resulted in the ending of his release on license has always been a mystery.

It is unclear whether or not the UVF wishes to remain as “an old boys association.” If it does this is of course utterly unacceptable. We all know that these gangsters are behind intimidation, protection rackets, drug dealing and prostitution and their “old boys association” would no doubt continue these criminal activities. Even if by some chance they did not intend to continue their criminal enterprises their “association” would still be utterly unacceptable. They murdered over 500 people in Northern Ireland and beyond and for the UVF to continue in any shape, manner or form is an insult to those people’s memories and to the pain of their loved ones. At the risk of offending Godwin’s Law it is actually like accepting an SS old boys club: nauseating and loathsome in the extreme.

The reality is that the only way the UVF could come out of this episode with any semblance of honour would be, after apologising for all the murders, to cooperate with the police to solve their crimes and then disband permanently leaving no trace of their existence save sadly for the gravestones of their victims; an eternal monument to their dishonour and evil. Indeed as an aside I hope more than any other outcome from the next sets of elections that the revolting sight of the UVF cheerleader will be removed from Stormont and indeed from the councils of Northern Ireland.

Turning then to the Ulster Defence association, that organisation which defended with great tenacity its members needs for personal financial gain and their needs to slake their blood lust with “any taig will do.” It appears that the UDA are not even willing to decommission unless they get yet more concessions: yet more Danegeld. In this case they appear to be demanding more money for their pet projects. Let us, not for one moment, pretend that the UDA want money to help working class unionist areas other than as a strange form of “trickle down” from the paramilitaries own pockets. In addition this money will be used to enable the UDA to continue to hold its malevolent influence on working class unionist areas. An influence, let us remember, which is only held by fear and intimidation and which working class unionists serially reject in the privacy of the ballot box.

The UDA also seem to want some of their members who have been gaoled released. Thankfully for once our Secretary of State Shaun Woodward (he of the backbone of a cephalopod) has said that this is unacceptable. However, he also needs to state that he regards the UDA’s effort as completely inadequate and that, as such, the decommissioning window for the UDA will close this summer. If that were to happen (and I will not hold my breath) it might suggest that very belatedly some osetoblasts are actually functioning in Mr. Woodward’s spinal column.

Of course all of the above leaves aside the inadequate nature of the loyalist decommissioning. It is overseen by General de Chastelain (a man with an honourable but not unblemished record) and some witnesses. The IRA decommissioned in the sight of witnesses appointed by the IRA (Rev. Harold Good and Fr. Alec Reid) neither of whom were regarded by everyone as both completely independent and adequately sceptical. The question arises who witnessed the loyalist decommissioning, whether they were appointed by the loyalists and how independent they were.

Vincent Kearney’s account does little to allay fears that this decommissioning will be as non-transparent as the IRA’s. On the BBC website he says: “The only people who know exactly what was decommissioned by the UVF are its leadership, the general and his team and those eyewitnesses. I understand the general has a statement ready, but they can’t issue it until authorised to do so by the UVF leadership.” These terms and conditions make it most unlikely that we will have a list of the weapons destroyed or how they were destroyed, let alone photographs or ideally independently shot television pictures of guns being completely destroyed. In the absence of all that there will always be the suspicion that not all the weapons are accounted for.

Let us remember the vast (and to many of us utterly excessive) concession that not forensically testing these weapons is. If that had been done it is possible that at least some of the loyalist godfathers who strut around Northern Ireland would be prosecuted. The failure to have these people gaoled is one of the great stains on our society and one which we seemed condemned to have to accept indefinitely. In addition let us remember that Lisa Dorrian, Thomas Devlin and many others were murdered by loyalists without the use of guns. The very existence of these organisations was is and always will be utterly unacceptable and decommissioning, good as it may be, does not actually change that and certainly does not bring the dead back. At least some of us believe that one day the books will be opened.

  • willis

    Turgon

    You strike me as an utterly decent bloke who has put his head over the parapet to represent the TUV, and hence by extension, the 30%ish of NI who oppose the messy, immoral and life saving compromise we voted for in 1998.

    Let me ask you this.

    Will you personally repudiate each of your colleagues who has ever encouraged armed resistance to Sinn Fein / IRA / Pan-Nationalism?

    Your post is all clever stuff especially the medical stuff, but it strikes me that you did not live in Belfast throughout the past 30 years and therefore you do not appreciate the distance some people have come.

    Again I must say that I respect you and your writing but the world is more complex than you seem to think.

  • Turgon

    willis,
    I spent a number of years in Belfast; indeed I was there from 1990 until last year. Prior to 1990 I lived in South Londonderry from 1971 (when I was born).

    It is of no direct relevance to me but my wife’s relatives have a long list of people they know and often were closely related to who were murdered (by the IRA but I make no distinctions between terrorists). They are all of very much the same opinions as myself: indeed my being related to them and experiencing their views has informed and strengthened many of my own views. These relatives are not from Belfast. I do not really understand how one has to be in Belfast to understand the troubles: Fermanagh seems to have been far from immune to it.

    I repudiate anyone from any party who was involved in or encouraged any form of violence unless they have completely turned away from it and accepted the utter and complete immorality of it. Personally I am of the view that those involved in political violence can change: however, I would submit that they should then (in my opinion) stay out of politics.

  • Greenflag

    ‘At least some of us believe that one day the books will be opened.’

    There are also many of us who believe that book will never be opened and therefore we must deal with humanity as best we can with our ‘human ‘ talents on this earth – realising that perfect justice is often unattainable but that we should always strive towards it’s realisation .

    I’ve no time for the IRA or the UVF or the causes they represent/ represented but I do understand and am aware that these organisations did not arise in a vaccuum . Organisations -states -churches and institutions ‘rot ‘ from the top down . Organisations like the IRA /UVF and others take root close to the economic bottom in societies and particularly in those under political and economic stress . You do not get large scale or even significant minority ‘terrorist ‘ movements in Sweden , Norway , Netherlands or Canada , USA , Japan etc -Why ? These are stable democratic states with a high degree of constitutional consensus running through all classes/religions /ethnic groups within their societies.

    You do find such movements in societies like NI and others were there is insufficent democratic consensus for the long term existence of the State in it’s present format .

    Muddling through is the name of the game particularly in divided societies like NI where there is no or at best a very weak cross community consensus on the very existence of the State such that it is .

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Greenflag: “Organisations -states -churches and institutions ‘rot ’ from the top down .”

    Spoken like a fella who doesn’t do his own home maintenance.

    Corrupt institutions, by they wholly criminal, such as the Mafia, Mafiya or whatever local flavor you’d care to name, or have pretensions of politics, such as the IRA or the UDA, are more like mushrooms — the rise from the shite. Mayhap there was a good idea in there once upon a time — a noble slogan or bold idea, but the long “troubled” era is corrosive. Hard times and hard tasks give rise to hard men.

    Greenflag: “You do not get large scale or even significant minority ‘terrorist ’ movements in Sweden , Norway , Netherlands or Canada , USA , Japan etc -Why ? These are stable democratic states with a high degree of constitutional consensus running through all classes/religions /ethnic groups within their societies.”

    I think you need to ditch the rose-colored lens, Greenflag. While the antics of certain swarthy fellas in the Netherlands, Sweden and France may not rise to what *you* call terrorism, but carving out no-gos in Malmoe, killing artists in the streets of the Nederlands and burning cars in Paris like they were matchsticks doesn’t qualify as “normal,” either. The political and social ramifications are ignored, due the political correctness of each of the three nations — you can’t even identify the skin-tone of a perp in Sweden w/o political ramifications.

    As for the US, it is the polar opposite of NI, I suspect — while in NI a certain amount of “normal” crime got writ up as political, a certain amount of political crime in the US gets writ up as “normal” crime.

  • willis

    Turgon

    I know that you have a similar interest in history to myself. Consider these soldier/politicians

    Cromwell, Churchill, Washington, Andrew Jackson.

    Do you think any of them fitted this description?

    “I repudiate anyone from any party who was involved in or encouraged any form of violence unless they have completely turned away from it and accepted the utter and complete immorality of it.”

    The reason I differentiated between urban and rural Ulster is that in the countryside it is much easier to make a case that there was a largely unprovoked IRA campaign against individual protestants.

    The irony of the TUV, IMHO, is that they only rejected Paisley when he turned from the encouragement of violence to an acceptance of the right of Sinn Fein to be in government based on their legitimate mandate.

  • clmm8899
  • Comrade Stalin

    On the BBC there was a report that the surviving member of the Miami Showband called up one of the churchmen with UVF contacts to pass on his “best wishes” (link.

    I often wonder how it is that some people (not all of them) who have suffered directly at the hands of the paramilitaries and barely escaped with their own lives, seem to come out of it less bitter than people like Turgon.

  • Turgon

    Comrade Stalin,
    Interesting that you call my belief that people should be prosecuted for murder “bitterness.” I wonder what that says?

  • Reader

    Comrade Stalin: I often wonder how it is that some people (not all of them) who have suffered directly at the hands of the paramilitaries and barely escaped with their own lives, seem to come out of it less bitter than people like Turgon.
    It’s a very individual thing, I expect. Some people can forgive sins against themselves, but not sins against others. Or it may be easier to deal with some anonymous atrocity than a very personal beating. Or people may resent some crime committed by someone who claims to represent them. Or a convincing gesture of remorse might make all the difference. Or an unconvincing or barbed gesture might make things worse.
    And are you yet up to forgiving the people who carry out anti-social behaviour in your area?

  • Turgon

    willis,
    “The reason I differentiated between urban and rural Ulster is that in the countryside it is much easier to make a case that there was a largely unprovoked IRA campaign against individual protestants.”

    A rather strange remark when one considers the number of murders of Protestants in Belfast and other urban areas of Northern Ireland. I am unclear why an individual murder is any different from say Blood Friday or La Mon. However, if you regard it as such (for whatever motives you have) it is still nonsense as there were plenty of murders of individual Protestants in Belfast.

  • Glencoppagagh

    Turgon
    “self evidently where there were so many murderers such as in Fermanagh they made practically no appearance”

    That would probably be because the good (passive?)Unionist folk of Fermanagh had a (naive?) faith in the state. One undesirable consequence of that is the tendency to believe people in uniform can do no wrong.

  • Greenflag

    Dread Chutlu,

    ‘Spoken like a fella who doesn’t do his own home maintenance.’

    I do. I just keep away from the plumbing . The ‘institutions’ I was refering to were the Church /Churches – Governments and some large corporations -not the mafia . I expect the latter to be corrupt by definition . I expect the RC Church among others to practice what it preaches ? I expect that in a revelation of Westminster MP’s expenses to provide transparency that ‘blacking out’ would be kept to a minimum ?
    Well that’s the theory . In the real world other things get in the way and always have .

    As for the USA ? All one can say is Madoff , Stanford , Massilio , Greenberg , Enron , Blackwater , Keating , World Com etc etc etc etc – there’s a list a mile long if you dig deep enough that will prove beyond contention that the ‘rot’ that ultimately destroys any society begins at the top for that is where power is corrupted the most and with most effect on the body politic..

  • Paul

    Like the little escape valve they left themselve

    “under our control” makes me wonder how many guns are left on the street under someone elses control

  • Greenflag

    willis ,

    ‘The irony of the TUV, IMHO, is that they only rejected Paisley when he turned from the encouragement of violence to an acceptance of the right of Sinn Fein to be in government based on their legitimate mandate.’

    Nothing ironic in that at all at all 😉 . It’s an old familar message not confined to just Northern Ireland .Usually it’s termed ‘hypocrisy’ in the ‘democratic’ world . By virtue of the political history of NI it has achieved a very high level of practiced performance being an essential requirement for those who would rise on the back of the body politic .

    And thus to the parable of the TUV from the Gnostic Bible 😉

    And lo in the day when the Lord hath createth Northern Ireland for it’s self chosen people he also created the Unionist and Republican and divided the land of Norn Iron amongst them.( most unequally said some . On the second day the Lord spoke to them and sayeth . ‘Go out and get you some rocks’ . Now the Unionist being happy in the prior dispensation of the Lord and being industrious went out and got a huge rock which he brought and placed in front of the Lord. And the Lord was pleased. Now the Nationalist being unhappy with the Lord’s prior dispensation and being ungrateful for his lot went out and brought back a pebble which he placeth in front of the Lord . And the Lord was not pleased .

    And Lo ( Annie Lo plays a low profile in this tale )they both waiteth until the Lord God spaketh out and said . ‘I’m going to turn these rocks into bread ‘ And thus the Unionist had unto him a lot of bread but the Nationalist receiveth but a mere crumb .

    And on the next day the Lord again told them the same thing . And this time the Unionist delivereth a great big rock even bigger than that of the first day . But the Nationalist he brought back not just a rock but the whole half of a mountain .

    And in the evening the Lord stood before them and sayeth pointing to both the Unionist rock and the Nationalist half mountain pile of rocks .

    ‘Upon these rocks I will build my church ‘

    But the irate Fenian for that was his other name speaketh out against the Lord shouting ‘

    ‘Youse is a bloody liar Lord -youse is going to make me some bread or I’ll crucify yiz ‘

    The ways of the Lord are strange but the ways of men are not . And thus was the Lord crucified for the error of his ways . For he who maketh the rules for the benefit of one must not be seen to change them a second time to prevent the same rule from benefitng another .

    This endeth the parable of the TUV .

  • Different Drummer

    The Haunted Opera House Act II

    In the great hall beneath the opera house Turgid the phantom has laid out a banquet. A great log fire blazes in the grate. Candle light flickers on gold goblets and sliver table ware.

    The phantom stands by the fire looking into the flames. He glances up at the clock on the mantle piece. Angered at the non appearance of his love Ms Purdy he picks up a poker and begins poking the fire.

    Sound of Footsteps off

    The Phantom: (not looking up from the fire) Martina – I knew you would come. For it is…

    The Phantom turns to see not the shape of the Maiden but the forlorn shape of Jackie Mc Donald.

    Phantom: What is the meaning of this intrusion?

    Jackie M: Ah come on neigh – stop acting as if ye don’t know me.

    Phantom: (Peering through the darkness) I may know you what of it? It does not mean that I wish to associate with you.

    Jackie M: Fine words I must say – ya weren’t so fussy when ya needed a few wee problems sorten out back when Ulster was fighting for its life.

    Phantom: What do you want of me you cur!!

    Jackie M: Neigh, Neigh – no need for that tone of voice – things have changed any how. Haven’t you heard – me and my band of brothers are neigh a community association set up to help the poor, the unfortunate and the incomeless.

    Ya see unlike the good-old-bad-old-days our role neigh is to work for Ulster by spreading happiness to all that needs it.

    Phantom (horrified) Happiness??!!

    JacKie M: Aye like to make sure that those that feel a little left out like can feel we are including them in things.

    Phantom: What is this strange talk – this quasi-quango lingo that you speak?

    Jackie M: Nothing quasi about it unless ya mean quasi modo haw haw haw

    Phantom: (aside) More like quasi more doe…

    Jackie M: Waa’ sat ye say?

    Phantom: I asked that you speak of your business with me or go.

    Jackie M: That’s it ye see we do have a new business. You wouldn’t believe how many people are interested in the new wee leaves that we have been turning over. And what do get for this service to the Community ?
    -The old cold shoulder! I mean some people simply don’t appreciate that we are their friends and want to help them.

    (He walks over to the table and picks up a chicken leg and starts chomping on it)

    Jackie M: Mmmmmmmm, very nice – nearly as good as Lord Woodhead’s kitchen Yes what was it we had? – oh yes duck in fresh herb sauce….

    Phantom: And what new dish are you proposing??!!

    Jackie M: Neigh, Neigh – all in good time -all in good time…

    (he walks away from the table chicken leg still in hand)

    Jackie M: I’ll send one of lads over to let you know what’s happening in a wee while….

    (he turns to face the Phantom) -Ya know I always thought this place would make a good underground neighborhood garden. (He looks around) yeah – a few spotlights -a few grow bags -little sprinkler system…

    (He looks at what’s left of the chicken leg in his hand)

    Oh sorry this is your’s (he throws the chicken leg at the Phantom the Phantom steps deftly aside and the chicken leg hits the fire and sizzles).

    Phantom: Give my regards to Lord Woodhead

    Jackie M: (Departing) I Will, I Will!!