Lessons from a public funeral

David McKittrick, the correspondent who has been the longest most continuous chronicler of the troubles where it matters most, on the streets where people live, sums up the positive and negative lessons of the Moffett funeral.

At the moment there is little evidence that the UVF as a whole is gearing up for a return to war. But, as the killing and the list of non-lethal UVF criminality indicates, the UVF and other groups have not melted away.

They contain individuals who wish to maintain their reputations as men of violence, and who want to make money from crime.

The Shankill still produces a steady flow of young people willing to become involved in paramilitarism. As one of the most deprived areas of Northern Ireland it has high levels of unemployment and crime and particularly poor records in education and health. This potent mix of deprivation and paramilitarism, which has festered for generations, has brutalised many and created a culture in which constant crime and occasional murders continue.

It was in June 1966, before the Troubles began, that the Shankill UVF claimed its first victim. In June 2010 it has again spilled blood on the streets. This time, however, the mass turnout by local people is clear evidence of their determination that the funerals should stop.

All most of can do it wring our hands. Despite the clear demonstration of disapproval of the killing, how depressing that people are still in the grip of this terrible old cycle. Does the funeral show that the Shankill is more typical of communities on both sides that we’d like to believe?

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London