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?

  • Argosjohn

    “It was in June 1966, before the Troubles began, that the Shankill UVF claimed its first victim”

    This should read: The first victim of the Troubles was John Scullion,a a 28-year-old Catholic Mayo barman, murdered on 11 June 1966 by Protestants operating from the Shankill Road.

  • Alias

    Who is going to learn that lesson? The policy of the central government is that the associates of the murder gangs are to be employed by the state in roles wherein they are offered financial reward to no longer support those they formerly supported, and where that financial reward is conditional on condemnation of their former associates’ activities or, at the very least, on not endorsing it. It is deluded to think that you can bride bad people to have good character. The reality is that they will take the money while saying what you pay them to say for as long as you pay them to say it and will continue to do what they have always done just as long as it isn’t detected.

    Ms Ritchie made a big fuss about making 1.2 million of bribe money to loyalist murder gangs being conditional on some token weapons being handed over in order to create the bogus impression that the policy served some beneficial social purpose, but she has since given large sums of state money to murder gangs – including £74,000 for a memorial to the UDA murder gang.

    The loyalists have loads of these rackets going on under ‘conflict transformation initiatives’ and other donations rackets. For example, the head of the UDA scammed 30k out of the husband of the Irish president for a football team that he manages and scammed another 120k out of him (or, rather, those fools wh are duped into donating this money thinking it serves some good purpose) for repainting murials. Now call me cynical but 1k and not 150k will buy a lot of kids t-shirts and paint. Hugh Orde was right to say that he wouldn’t give the UDA as much as 50p.

    So these parasites – who run other rackets such as protection scams, prosetution, drugs, etc – are promoted by the state as pilliars of the working-class communities that they blight, and how can a businessman who is paying 500 a week in protection to them or a mother of a drug addict protest when they see these vile gangsters being greeted as honoured guests at Áras an Uachtaráin and playing golf with the President’s husband or being promoted by the state as community workers and representatives of their community?

    It’s true that the murder gangs have blighted their community but it is also true that they state has sponsored them while doing it and that it sponsors them still.

  • Alias

    Typo: ” It is deluded to think that you can bribe bad people to have good character. “

  • damon

    The Shankill Road doesn’t look so deprived.
    The housing stock of much of it is all new, and several streets are awaiting demolition and to be built again from scratch.
    There seems to be plenty of money for new cars, Lingfield football shirts, haircuts, tattoos and fake suntan cream. And of course booze and fags.

    And by the look of yesterday’s funeral, money for smart suits too. Where is this deprivation?

    Maybe it’s a deprivation of aspiration and a valuing of education.

    Still, it was good to see a big turnout, which I hope was signalling disapproval of more violence.

  • Bulmer

    The deprivation is there. Don’t be fooled by material display (and the Shankill has long history of putting up a good front: the wee palace mentality hasn’t entirely died out).

    Like most urban areas of the UK we have no longer a sense of community. The new houses were built over the ruins of the old community, dispersed throughout Belfast and beyond. It’s never recovered.

    Having been brought up on it, I doubt If I know anyone of my generation who has remained. The social cohesion and sense of pride has long gone. Money can’t replace that.

    Thatcher did create a world ‘were there is no such thing as society’. The lack of cohesion in today’s society is a direct consequence. No unions, no associations, no political agenda, allied to poor education and an environment peopled by those who couldn’t get away.

    I see something else entirely.

    There was a time that the Shankill hummed to political debate and thought. the lack of responses to this piece shows how removed Slugger is from the day to day life in working class Belfast. And how remote from mainstream society the Road has become.

  • damon

    Bulmer, I see that some people in the Shankill area still leave their front doors open to the street.
    That is unimaginable in similar areas in London – like in Brixton or Wembley.

    Being from London, I have never seen areas with greater social cohesion than the Shankill and Falls Roads.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    re. “hummed to political debate”.

    How come then there was so much attraction for the policies of the mainstream Unionist parties and seemingly no politcal movement with any traction from the bottom up – which thopefully, is not too provocative to remark, seemed to be evident in the equivalent Nationalist areas?