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Editorial The loyalist campaign

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

It is as ironic in some ways as it is alarming that the snagged peace process in the North revolves around Unionist demands that the IRA decommission its weapons while at the same time an organized campaign of vicious sectarianism is being conducted by a Protestant paramilitary group, the Ulster Defense Association.

Since the beginning of the year, some 50 pipe-bomb attacks against innocent Catholic families have been attributed to the UDA, though supposedly it is on cease-fire. The last one came on Tuesday when a 4-year girl narrowly escaped death in Belfast when she found one of these crude but potentially deadly devices near her home. She carried it from the garden into the house. Fortunately, it did not explode. Earlier, a bomb factory was uncovered in an apartment in North Belfast that contained 11 pipe bombs, a booby-trap device, and a gas cylinder containing enough explosives to cause "carnage," in the words of the police. Also, 1,000 ecstasy tablets were found in another apartment. The explosives have been linked to the Ulster Volunteer Force, which has two spokesmen in the Northern Ireland assembly. One of them said the bombs were not for use in the current campaign.

Last week, in an alarming development, a Catholic worker was seriously injured at a construction site near Dungannon, Co. Tyrone, by a booby trapped shed door. The week before that, a Catholic family had a narrow escape from their North Belfast home when a pipe bomb exploded and burned it down. The majority of attacks have been concentrated in the Northeast Antrim area. On Monday, Catholic homes in Broughshane, East Antrim, were attacked

In the wake of that attack, the SDLP assembly member for the area, Sean Farren, asked: "What has been achieved? Why are those behind this orchestrated, Northern Ireland-wide campaign continuing with this tactic?"

Those are important questions. There seem to be two chief aims behind the attacks. The first is obviously to terrorize Catholic families in areas where they are still in a vulnerable minority. The purpose is to ethnically cleanse the area and make sure it stays majority Protestant. That is why the vast majority of the attacks occur east of the river Bann, where Protestants still hold on to a precarious majority.

The second aim is to provoke retaliation from the IRA. The only thing holding the current peace process together is the IRA’s cease-fire, and since the UDA is intent on dealing a death blow to the attempts of all those seeking a just and fair settlement of the current crisis, retaliation would help it achieve that.

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So far it has not succeeded. The IRA is holding the line. This is where the irony is found. The Unionist obsession with IRA decommissioning continues as if blithely unaware that the main threat to peace is coming from within its own Protestant community.

In the meantime, the security forces are not completely powerless in the situation. Since the chief constable has identified the UDA as being behind the pipe-bomb campaign, he could act on the intelligence he has. UDA members released from prison last year were freed on the understanding that if the organization broke its cease-fire, they could be rearrested. One of its leaders, Johnny Adair, has already suffered this fate. It is time the authorities activated the powers they have before some innocent family pays the supreme price.

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