Category: Archive

Dublin Report: The loyal sons of Ulster marching toward trouble

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By John Kelly

While the loyal sons of Ulster march proudly through the North, the very edifice that once supported them is collapsing beneath their feet. The RUC, once as impregnable as it was inscrutable, is coming under increasing public attention that is sure to force major changes.

Jonathan Bell, the unionist spokesperson for what has now come to be termed the "Long March," a hundred-mile walk through loyalist strongholds that will reach Portadown on the eve of the Drumcree protest, has adopted a Biblical demeanor.

He is apparently into fundamentalist Christianity and he speaks with a suitably passionate tremor in his voice. His speech is littered with righteous-sounding condemnations concerning the alleged ethnic cleansing of his co-religionists in those areas, like South Armagh, where Protestants are in a distinct minority.

He may be genuine and upfront in his stance. If he is right about the IRA driving Protestants from any part of the North, simply because they happen to be Protestant, he is correct to condemn it.

People genuinely concerned about bringing peace to the North must always be very concerned about the sectarian atrocities perpetrated by their own tribe.

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Bell claims the march has been organized to protest the fact that Protestants are denied their civil rights. And many anti-Good Friday activists who disagree with their party leader, First Minister-elect David Trimble, have joined him.

Like Frazer Agnew, one of the unionists opposed to the agreement, they argue that both sides are fundamentally opposed. They also claim that while Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and the British prime minister, Tony Blair, may continue to fudge the issue, what the marching unionists demand are the same rights as every British citizen.

If that is all true, well and good. But the marchers, no matter what the intention of the organizers, are dicing with the death of the peace agreement. It is a dangerous tactic not alone because it comes during the building tension that explodes in the marching season, but also because it comes at a time when confidence in the RUC has been eroding on all sides.

Do we really want to see British troops back in force on the streets and laneways of Northern Ireland?

No matter how committed these marchers may be, they are tailing a coat that will be tugged by others who share no such idealistic aims.

By the time they reach Portadown on the eve of the Drumcree protest, they will be a very different band to the one that set out from Derry. They will have gathered the fellow travelers from some of the hottest of loyalist hot spots along the route.

As the sons of Ulster go marching through the rolling countryside east of the Bann, Ahern and Blair will be in Belfast again, attempting to knock political heads together with the Official Unionists and Sinn Fein, before the June 30 expiration of the deadline for the establishment of the Northern Assembly.

What a time to carry out such a march through the North — especially when one remembers that nightly rallies are to be organized by the Orange Order in every town visited by the loyal sons of Ulster.

In the meantime, it has emerged on quite another front that the price of property in Belfast is rising steeply since the signing of the Good Friday agreement. Business expectations are rising rapidly throughout the entire territory.

Yet, the aim of this march is nothing short of bringing down the Good Friday peace agreement while supporting the intransigence of Drumcree. Are they really prepared to scuttle the economic possibilities?

If so, they are a hopeless and intractable people indeed, beyond all redemption, to use the Biblical language employed by Jonathan Bell and his cohorts.

Finucane collusion?

Even while this is happening, a sensational claim concerning the killing 10 years ago of Belfast lawyer Pat Finucane has been made in a Belfast court.

The rumors have been all around the houses for a considerable time. They took on wings in the pages of the book "The Committee," banned in the UK and given only limited circulation in the Republic.

They were underpinned most of all by a UN official who claimed that he had been told by RUC chief constable, Sir Ronnie Flanagan, that some Northern lawyers were virtually card-carrying members of the IRA. It is a claim vigorously denied by the chief constable.

However, the RUC has suffered another blow as the result of the evidence of the former UDR soldier charged last week with killing Finucane.

What he told the court lifts the veil on the dangerously vicious sectarian role of the most secret sections of the RUC, especially the Special Branch.

Billy Stobie is a 48-year-old Belfast man from the loyalist Fort River Street who became a paid informer for the RUC on loyalist paramilitary actions.

He flatly denies any involvement in the killing of Pat Finucane and the wounding of the lawyer’s wife at their family home in Belfast.

Instead, he told the court that he had warned his Special Branch contacts that "Somebody was to be shot" just before the hit was carried out 10 years ago. In fact, he claims that he made two telephone calls, even naming the weapon that was to be used. He did not know the intended victim.

He claimed that the RUC has been aware of the evidence for 10 years but had done nothing. He also claimed that he had made two other such warning calls concerning other victims, before the Finucane killing, but got no response.

It would be foolish to put too much of a stake in such allegations. After all, he is an informer and informers will often play both sides against the middle.

However, it also has to be pointed out that Stobie’s arrest was made as the result of the investigation headed by John Stevens, deputy head of the Metropolitan Police in London.

Those who remember the John Stalker saga, culminating in the removal of the former police chief who had been seconded to investigate dirty tricks within the RUC, will not be surprised at the extent of the murky depths of the Northern terrorist underworld.

They will be only surprised if the full extent of the various conspiracies come fully to light.

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