Category: Archive

Inside File: Disconcerting words continue from the paramilitary cannon

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Ray O’Hanlon

So many words and so little comfort. The troubles in Ireland have spawned countless millions of them, nouns, verbs and adjectives that condemn, justify, accuse, apologize, slander and acquit.

Despite a comparative peace, there has been little or no slackening in the torrent. There are moments when you might think yourself back in the especially grim days of the early 1970s. There are moments when you sense the long shadows of another century. And there are moments when you read or hear words that hint of still more bloody times to come.

Words have been uttered in recent weeks by paramilitary groups that hint at both a return to a darker past and the possibility of a brighter future. As usual, the flow is not entirely one way.

In this case, two paramilitary superpowers, the Provisional IRA and the Ulster Volunteer Force, have been like ships in the night.

There’s no doubt that many people in Ireland, North and South, found the recent Provo apology for past misdeeds a bit hard to take. Those who have suffered directly at the hands of the IRA would have particular cause to scoff.

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Still, it’s possible to see the glass as being half full or half empty, depending on which way you take to the latest epistle from “P. O’Neill.” The statement, at the very least, was a distinct advance on all those earlier ones that sought to justify murder and mayhem. Take the apology at its literal face value and it has to be seen as step in the right direction.

What then to make of another statement that surfaced in the last few weeks? It was published in the magazine Combat, the organ of the Ulster Volunteer Force and credited in the headline to “1st Battalion ‘C’ Company, Ulster Volunteer Force and Young Citizen Volunteers.”

The statement opened with words of gratitude and reassurance directed at the Protestant residents of West and North Belfast for their continued support.

C company was not taking about a bake sale, however. The statement went on to say that the UVF was “still committed to defending the people of Ulster.”

And so onward and downward. “We would also make it known that our Company is still very much active in the recruitment, training and arming of our youth wing, the Young Citizen Volunteers, in preparation for battles they may have to fight in the future. This commitment is steadfast, and is visible by the Unit of well trained young men on duty here tonight.”

The exact time and place was not revealed but the statement did immediately become, shall we say, geo-specific.

“To the residents of Springmartin and Highfield we would say this, any moves to build Nationalist homes on the old ‘Finlay’ or ‘Corries’ sites will be met with an armed response. Have no fear, your homes will not be ravaged on the borders of an interface.”

The borders of an interface?

Let’s continue. “To our Fallen Comrades who gave their lives we make this promise. In the past months the Ulster Volunteer force has defended North and East Belfast with military might. These actions will continue until Republicans cease their sectarian onslaught of Loyalist residents. The action that our Volunteers have taken is a mere warning that we are a well trained and disciplined military force prepared for peace and ready for war.”

The statement was evidently written at the end of June or early July. It was published in the July edition of Combat.

“As the marching season comes upon us once again, ‘C’ Company Volunteers will be armed and ready to respond to any attacks on our people. Our response will be swift and sharp, and the Republican movement will be left in no doubt that we have had enough!! The uneasy peace that we live with to-day is not the peace that we had all wished for. The Ulster Volunteer force has always said that peace would not be at a price — the Protestant people have had enough. Yes we are re-arming. Yes we are gathering intelligence and yes, we are is a state of readiness. We are a stronger and more disciplined Force that will defend the people of Ulster at any cost. Ninety years on and our aim is still the same — ‘No Home Rule and no United Ireland.’

The statement is reaches for its climax at this point with lines of vintage defiance.

“We will not go away and we will not be forced from our homes — we are the British presence on this island. The Officers and Volunteers of ‘C’ Company will defend this area as did our Fallen Comrades in days of yore. The pride and the dignity lives on with their Illustrious Memory. The message I give you is clear — the ‘People’s Army’ will not decommission, our weapons are for the defense of Protestant rights and Protestant people. Make no mistake, our rights and our people will be defended to the bitter end. For God And Ulster.”

Ah, an end, and a bitter one to boot. It would be tempting indeed to lash into this screed with a broadside of righteous indignation, but the wee North has been drowning in righteous indignation for years.

And it does no good to point the accusing finger solely at loyalist groups such as the UVF in general, or the boys of Company C in particular. Change a few words and titles in the Combat statement and it could a gravesite Republican oration at just about anytime over the last 30 years.

It would be an equally redundant exercise to point to the guaranteed political uproar if the Provos had published something like this, and right now, in An Phoblacht.

No, what is most disturbing about statements like this is the lack of uproar from Unionist politicians in particular. The Provos would most certainly hear it from the likes of the SDLP and politicians in the Republic, not to mention Unionist and British ones, if they rolled out a statement of this ilk.

You would have been reading it on page one of USA Today or the New York Times in big, bold type. The Rev. Ian Paisley would have thundered from a pulpit, or the nearest sermonizing mount.

But, sad to say, this sort of warmongering rarely seems to draw the same degree of scorn and revulsion from Unionist leaders when it is enunciated by loyalist paramilitaries.

Such comparative silence is even more disturbing than all the wasted words of discomfort.

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