Concern over the mounting violence from loyalist organizations has taken on a new and sinister dimension. This week, spokesmen for the Ulster Democratic Party, which is linked to the Ulster Defense Association — the largest of the loyalist paramilitary groups — issued statements denying that the UDA had broken its cease-fire. But in the course of their denials they warned that if the current investigation into the murder of slain lawyer Patrick Finucane leads to the arrests of UDA members, then the UDA would go back on the warpath.
The UDP tried to justify its threat by alleging that the investigation into the 10-year-old crime is being undertaken merely to appease republicans and nationalists. However, it has to be seen for what it is: an extraordinarily blatant attempt at blackmail.
It was, after all, the Ulster Freedom Fighters, the UDA’s flag of convenience, who took responsibility for that brutal and dastardly crime in February 1989. Then, they seemed eager to boast about it. Now, when it is rumored that the police are getting close to making an arrest, they have suddenly changed their tune.
For many years, the UDA managed to bluff and intimidate the authorities into letting it remain a legal organization even though its hands were steeped in the blood of hundreds of innocent people. Remarkably, this, one of the most violent organizations Northern Ireland has ever seen, was not banned until the summer of 1992.
It had been hoped that the UDA had finally seen the senselessness of its violence when it declared, with the other main loyalist groups, a cease-fire in October 1994. But evidence is growing that some of its diehards have resorted to the murder and mayhem that gave the organization its violent reputation. They must not be allowed to resume their old ways without paying the full penalty that the law can exact. And they must not be allowed to add blackmail to their list of sordid crimes.
May 26-June 1, 1999
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