East Belfast UVF: Mission Accomplished?

There is little doubt but that the UVF leaders in East Belfast who plotted the sectarian violence which engulfed the catholic community of the Short Strand and subsequently that of neighbouring protestant residents will be very contented with the course of events this week.

Hindsight has enabled us to connect the transparently obvious dots which clearly were preliminary manoeuvres ahead of this act, as I have pointed out on an earlier thread.

The hotch-potch of excuses provided for the violence are already being sharpened into something more fluid than the confused narrative being proferred by loyalist spokespersons from the East, and it was entirely appropriate that Brian Feeney sought to bring the focus back upon those driving the developments on UTV Live tonight amidst the efforts by the well-meaning but naive community relations soundbyte experts to obfuscate the issue.

The factually erroneuous storyline that loyalism was defending beleaguered local protestants will go unchallenged locally when the bandsmen and brethren assemble beneath the hundreds of loyalist flags erected and altered mood music of the gable murals in anticipation of this act being played out.

Loyalism has blooded a new generation in the overwhelmingly unionist stronghold that is East Belfast, and the groundwork will be further worked upon as the drums beat, fires burn and feet march across the flag and banner festooned loyalist heartland in the weeks to come.

 This is crunch time for the PSNI as the Beast from the East leadership is clearly not attuned to the peace processery endorsed more warmly by those Dublin-friendly fellow loyalist leaders.

The PSNI were clearly caught unaware by loyalists this week, but the hours of footage captured by police cameras should lead to scores of loyalist arrests if the pattern of previous Belfast riots is anything to go by- and if it is not, then that will raise another series of questions in itself.

Personally, I find this rather depressing as it is likely that young protestant working-class males foolishly ensnared by the schemers will find themselves with criminal records like their catholic counterparts in other parts of the city have in recent years. Thus, those most likely to find meaningful employment a challenge throughout their lives will have an additional obstacle to overcome in the form of a criminal record.

Therefore, it will be important that the PSNI are seen to effectively and decisively deal with the renewed threat to peace from loyalist quarters in the same manner that they have dealt with dissident republicans. And, as importantly, in the process of so doing, perhaps unionist politicians will be encouraged to make an unambiguous and public stand alongside republicans, nationalists and others in opposition to loyalists seeking to threaten the peace in such a calculated manner. In fact, one model already exists for so doing, if the will is there….