Spotlight last night, if you missed it, is well worth a catch up. Ostensibly about the resurgence of the UVF, particularly in east Belfast, in the process it also exposed some of those poisonous foundations of the Peace Process™ era.
Stephen Dempster claims he spoke to two dozen people all of whom were too afraid to talk on camera about the influence of the UVF in Belfast. Men with guns or access to guns tend to be uncompromising with their critics.
One glaring question for the Policing Board is how they have enabled the local policing partnership boards to become infiltrated by paramilitaries such that no ordinary person in their right mind would raise anything relating to the same.
Back in 2003 Trevor Ringland interviewed David Ervine on the subject of paramilitarism and other broader matters relating to unionism for Slugger:
I think the metamorphosis of paramilitaries has begun. In my experience so far it usually breaks into three distinct groups. There are those who have gone home because their services are no longer required. Then there are others who take a view that ‘if I was prepared to ‘die for my country’, then I am prepared to work for it’.
They are trying to become involved and to do development and are in the process of genuinely helping the community. Then there is the third group, who bring alive the old adage that ‘patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel’. They are a matter now for the policing service and a society to take on and deal with.
Ervine thought then that paramilitaries would disperse over time, and the police would deal with the miscreants. Much of his calculation was that the peace process would lead us all (magically, perhaps) into another era. The brute reality is that men with guns don’t feel they have to go along with a political process that increasingly putting itself beyond the scrutiny and care of ordinary people.
Focus on dissident republicans has been understandable, since they are the only ones actively on an externalised killing campaign. But the UVF had become virtually untouchable for more invidious reasons, by their claim to be on ceasefire, the protective rules of the peace process game mean they, as friends of the peace process, are not to be touched.