Summer in Northern Ireland has for a very long time been associated with heightening of sectarian problems and criminality. This year has been as bad as many for some time. Throughout this summer the media and others have held a number of organisations and individuals to account over this. Whether someone agrees or disagrees with this holding to account tends to depend on one’s social / political / sectarian position.
So far we have had Ruth Patterson repeatedly criticised for her involvement in the flag protests and more recently charged over her comments on a Facebook page. Meanwhile Peter Robinson and the DUP has been attacked for assorted supposed acts of “lack of leadership”. The UUP and TUV on the other hand have been criticised for supposed political opportunism.
On the other side of the sectarian divide the SDLP have been in trouble for supporting the naming of a playpark after an IRA terrorist. Gerry Kelly is under investigation for his ride on a police land rover (as an aside why are the new white landrovers supposed to be so much more “cuddly” than the grey ones from my childhood). Meanwhile Sinn Fein have been criticised (and Kelly again) over the Castlederg parade whilst dissident republican Marion Price / McGlinchey has been convicted over a 2011 parade.
One of the groups most heavily involved in criminality this summer have been loyalists. Two leading loyalists (Willie Frazer and Jamie Bryson) have been arrested and imprisoned before being granted bail and in Frazer’s case arrested again. Frazer and Bryson whatever their alleged affiliations are not, however, part of the mainstream loyalist paramilitary movement.
Rather the loyalist violence has clearly had a degree of orchestration which can only have come from mainstream loyalist paramilitaries: the UVF and / or UDA. Whilst there has undoubtedly been massive anger in unionist working class areas over the flags issue and others, petrol bombs etc. cannot be made in significant numbers particularly quickly. This implies a degree of organisation and planning which can realistically only have come from one or both of those terrorist organisations. It has been repeatedly stated by well informed sources that the UVF was behind much of the violence surrounding the flag protests in the winter and Brian Rowan has effectively admitted the UVF’s heavy involvement in this some of this summer’s violence.
In spite of all this there has been remarkably little calling to account of the loyalist terrorists (especially the UVF on this occasion) within the mainstream media or elsewhere. Earlier this year at the Cardiff talks along with the assorted democratically elected representatives, the police, facilitators and various do-gooders, there were the representatives of loyalist paramilitaries. They were there not as police officers, elected politicians or do-gooders but as representatives of illegal loyalist terrorist organisations which, especially in the case of the UVF, has murdered two dozen people since their supposed ceasefire.
This initiative seems to have failed spectacularly during the summer with, in addition to rioting, the aforementioned continued drug dealing. Yet in all this we still as a society, and the media especially, maintain the charade that when loyalist terrorists engage in criminality they are doing so individually rather than collectively. I have been going over this for years and years but it is probably worth asking again: when are we as a society going to start calling for the arrest of criminals for their crimes? If for nothing else, then for the crime of belonging to a proscribed organisation. Instead they have been invited to royal events, to play golf and in general the persecutors of the working class unionist community have been treated for years as if they were something other than common criminals. Yet again, however, this summer, the mainstream media who have been passing opprobrium all round them for what we have seen have said little enough directly against the loyalist terrorists. Nor have they called Matt Baggot to account for failing to ensure the arrest of the ring leaders, contenting himself instead on high profile but largely irrelevant individuals such as Willie Frazer.