Category: Archive

Pity the UDA — still at war but ignored by PSNI

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

From time to time you can read that all the Belfast UDA leaders are meeting in a hotel in East Belfast and will talk to the media afterward — very accommodating of them. Once they were all filmed going to a meeting with our previous proconsul, John Reid. Is it all so that a newscaster can write a sentence for Noel Thompson or Rose Neill to read out, beginning with the portentous, “The BBC has learned . . . “? As if all the media in the north didn’t know the same.
Now just imagine if the said Noel or Rose read out a sentence like this: “The BBC has learned that the IRA’s Belfast Brigade staff met this afternoon in a hotel in South Belfast to decide how to respond to . . . ” (doesn’t matter, say the price of apples)? What do you think the reaction would be? Substitute the words for “Belfast Brigade” with “Army Council” and you could guarantee Jeffrey Donaldson, David Burnside and poor Sammy Wilson would be badly injured as the three of them got stuck in the revolving doors at the BBC on Ormeau Avenue in their headlong rush to the airwaves to demand a nuclear strike on the hotel and the resignation of the secretary of state, though not necessarily in that order.
Yet have you ever heard any Unionist politician asking for action to be taken as a result of UDA leaders flaunting their status publicly? After all, the UDA is an illegal organization. You can be jailed for being a member, though that remains a theoretical position rather than a reality. It’s all very strange. A couple of weeks ago, police stopped a car allegedly full of explosives and charged the driver with possession and also membership of the Real IRA. Anybody remember the last time a UDA man with a gun was charged with membership of the UDA?
When what the media call the UDA’s inner council meets — you know, the one where the MI5 agents present decide who should be taken out next, and not for a candlelit dinner — do you think they’re discussing Rangers’ prospects or whether Linfield will beat Portadown? Or do you think they’re discussing terrorist activities? There is an offense called “directing terrorism.” Does it not apply?
Has anyone in the Police Service of Northern Ireland ever given a press conference describing how he got to the heart of the UDA? Why talk about press conferences? Well, since PSNI admits the UDA has been responsible for most of the violence this year, and was also responsible for most of it last year, too, and since the UDA had murdered a number of Catholics, members of the LVF and of its own organization this year, you might be naive enough to presume breaking up the terrorist organization would be PSNI’s priority and that it would announce that objective publicly. But no.
The UDA is not on ceasefire. It murders Catholics, its yobs throw hundreds of pipe bombs, it opposes the Good Friday agreement, it controls the drug trade in loyalist areas of Belfast, it foments sectarian violence, and the names of its leaders and when and where they meet to plan their nefarious activities are printed openly in the press. And what? You could feel sorry for UDA leaders. They try so hard, yet with all that the police still ignore them. What do they have to do to get the attention of the police? Simple. Call a cease-fire, stop killing people, support the GFA, get elected and start photocopying documents instead of standing around stupidly waiting for the police to hand you photocopies they’ve made — that gets you nowhere.
David Trimble says loyalist violence has “no political dimension.” He’s wrong, of course, as he is on most political issues, unless he means it’s OK as long as loyalists don’t threaten the state, which would simply be adopting the position the NIO held for decades. Policing is the major current issue and the abject failure of PSNI to deal with loyalist violence in the last year means there will be no political progress. In June, the question was asked in this column, who will protect the people of the Short Strand? As feared then, the answer is, not PSNI. For nationalists in Belfast, dealing with loyalist violence is the key political dimension.

The writer is a columnist for the Irish News.

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