The loyalist paramilitaries seem to have decommissioned at least some of their weapons. The UVF have allegedly disposed of all of theirs and the UDA are supposed to be going to follow suit by next year. This was something which was quite widely welcomed, though I am inclined to Stephen Farrys view: These are only words from the UDA. People are entitled to be sceptical of yet more promises, but little delivery to date. The ever elastic timetable for decommissioning is to be further stretched to accommodate the continued procrastination.
The problem is that although the loyalists may be giving up their weapons they are fairly clearly still involved in massive criminality. There seems absolutely no indication that they have given up protection rackets, prostitution rings, drug dealing etc. etc. They remain a blight on Northern Irish society and continue to hold large segments of the working class unionist community in thraldom. They remain a major cause of poverty and instability in these areas and indeed further afield.
Most obviously despite not using weapons they still seem to be involved in murder. Lisa Dorrian was probably not murdered with a gun but she is just as dead; Thomas Devlin was certainly not murdered with a gun but he is just as dead. Kevin McDaid was assaulted and died (I will avoid the use of the term murder until after the trial ends) again without the use of firearms. It seems clear that loyalist paramilitary organisations are not going to become old boys clubs, not that that would be acceptable either; far too much blood has been spilled by them before and after the ceasefires and far too much generalised criminality has gone on for that ever to be acceptable.
I have almost no doubt that our cephalopod Secretary of State will claim plaudits for the decommissioning and will go on to give yet more concessions to these criminals. The opposite is actually what should happen.
Now should be the time to move the goal posts on these people and demand that not only should they give up all their weapons but also that they go out of business entirely and do so very quickly: their only remaining corporate act would be to provide the poor Dorrian family with their daughters remains.
This may sound like a barmy idea: surely if we push them now they will not decommission. Well maybe but if that is the case all the forces of law and order need to be brought to bear on them; the police need to pursue them to destruction and if they resist the army might also be needed.
To anyone who might suggest that this is unfair and reneging on our side of the agreement let us remember that these people are criminals. If I possess weapons illegally and have committed crimes I do not get a free pass and indeed privileges for giving up my weapons: the only privileges I would receive would be for good behaviour in gaol.
Loyalists have been remarkably adept at spinning out the process and gaining concession after concession for little return: well what is sauce for the goose is also sauce for the gander and it is high time decent people demanded a great deal more from the loyalists than whatever weapons they choose to admit to owning in exchange for the ludicrous concept of not perusing these thugs with full the rigour of the law.
For loyalists to give up their weapons 10 years ago would not have been adequate to compensate for their involvement in about 1,000 peoples deaths and countless injuries. To do so now is no more acceptable. We should act to demand more now before the loyalists get a sniff of further rewards. These people need to be boxed further and further into a corner until their power is completely destroyed: to let up after supposed decommissioning would be an insult to the memory of all their victims.
This author has not written a biography and will not be writing one.