A number of interesting features in the media regarding the East Belfast violence this weekend.
Brian Rowan on BBC Radio Ulster’s Sunday Sequence provided an uncomfortable analysis for those who assumed the only major paramilitary threat to the new dispensation came from dissident republican factions. In a frank contribution in which he didn’t hit and miss the wall, the experienced analyst of republican and loyalist groupings said that the UVF Leader was a “law unto himself” in East Belfast.
Rowan went on to claim “there is a criminal running the UVF in East Belfast, there is nothing political about him.”
“We can dress it up, we can put a context around it, we can talk about a whole lot of things, but the UVF have a leader in that part of the city who is doing his own thing.” He added that the loyalist leader “has enough UVF flags around East Belfast to choke a herd of loyalist donkeys.”
Rowan was joined on the panel by the PUP’s John Kyle and May Blood. Kyle did not dispute Rowan’s analysis, though he sought to focus on the “deeper underlying problem” in loyalist communities of disillusionment, a result of alienation. Kyle suggested that these loyalists “received very little of the peace dividend….[and were] lacking sense of direction and purpose.”
Rowan identified the double standard shouting out from the political and media reaction to the loyalist-inspired attacks, namely that if the IRA had attacked a loyalist community during the week “the political roof would have caved in.”
The first person who spoke to Rowan in the aftermath of the violence was an East Belfast loyalist who informed him that it was deliberately organised as a UVF show.
Most tellingly, once again there was no suggestion from Brian Rowan, the PUP spokesperson nor May Blood that the loyalist violence was a reaction to alleged republican attacks on protestant homes, something I’ve already pointed out that East Belfast loyalist spokesperson Jim Wilson also ‘forgot’ to mention in his earlier comments on the causes of the loyalist violence.
Elsewhere, Newt Emerson has the violence down as the UVF’s grant application in Saturday’s Irish News (subs required.) The Sunday Life is reporting that leading East Belfast loyalist Stephen Matthews was amongst the loyalists whom Peter Robinson met (must remember that the next time unionist politicians slam Sinn Fein for calling for talks with dissident republican leaders.) The Sunday Life is also reporting that the loyalists are focused on securing £4 million of funding from the Executive.
Meanwhile, the Sunday World is running with a story claiming that Orange Order figures have struck a deal with the UVF to wreak havoc during the marching season (you’ll have to buy the paper as the story doesn’t feature on the linked site.)