Targeting the Unionism Community
So, the UVF has suspended contacted with General de Chastelain’s decommissioning body, and the Progressive Unionist Party has decided to end contact with Sinn Fein. Two reasons have been given: increasing disillusionment with the peace process and “the wholesale targeting of the unionist community” by the IRA, a reference to the spy-ring allegations.
It is true that unionists will find offence in the continued existence of the IRA, or any republican activity from, on the one hand, political espionage, to, at the other extreme, arranging Easter lilies in a vase up in the Assembly. On deciding republican involvement in Colombia, Castlereagh and the alleged kleptomania for documents that don’t belong to them, the non-jury is still out.
In truth, what unionists do not like is the full implementation of the Belfast Agreement simply because equality and parity of esteem threaten their ethos and hegemony and are synonymous with revolutionary gains for nationalists and republicans. They fear that the current talks might result in the British government moving towards the implementation of Patton and honouring the commitment not to prosecute republicans who are still on the run. That is why Ulster Unionist warnings are echoed in UVF threats.
When the IRA cease fired in August 1994 unionist paramilitaries proclaimed it a victory for their campaign of sectarian assassination, and that they had brought the IRA to the point of surrender. When the Tory government didn’t treat the republican offer of peace seriously the IRA did something even seasoned observers said it couldn’t do - it ended its cease fire with the bombing of Canary Wharf and only reinstated it when Labour came to power and opened up real negotiations.
Ulster Unionists and unionist paramilitaries who initially supported the Belfast Agreement understood the compromises within it but believed that the risks were worth it because in its outworking (one example being police reform) they could skin republicans. That is, that through their minimalist approach, their use of Westminster, their constant threats to walk out, through relying in part on the divisions between Sinn Fein and the SDLP and Dublin, and through exploiting the various moral commitments Sinn Fein and the IRA had made to peace, unionists could emerge in a handsome position in the Assembly and the Executive, the union secure in perpetuity.
But Ulster Unionists in their electoral battle with the DUP had to rely upon a big lie - that the Agreement (which was an accommodation, an historical compromise by them also) was a defeat for the Republican Movement and that “the war had been for nothing”, as if republicans had given up on the objective of Irish independence!
Even at a press conference on Friday, at which the Progressive Unionist Party announced it would no longer talk to Sinn Fein, this confusion was evident. On the one hand, David Ervine smugly states that republicans have accepted a partitionist settlement, then complains that the British government in the current talks, aimed at reaching agreement before a decision is taken about Assembly elections in May, better not make any concessions to the Republican Movement!
But let us look at the IRA’s alleged “wholesale targeting of the unionist community”, given as the reason for the UVF and PUP’s withdrawal from the process.
Who has threatened the unionist community in the last three years more than unionist paramilitaries? Who but the UVF stabbed to death 18-year-old David McIlwaine and 19-year-old Andrew Robb at the side of a Tandragee road in February 2000? Who but the UVF shot Jackie Coulter and Bobby Mahood in Belfast in August of the same year? Who but the UVF shot David Greer in North Belfast on 28th October 2000, and three days later Tommy English of the rival Ulster Democratic Party? Who but the UVF shot Adrian Porter in Bangor in March 2001? Who but the Progressive Unionist Party made excuses for these killings?
It makes no difference that these individuals were killed during a feud with the UDA/LVF which also saw UVF members and supporters killed. Who but loyalists rob their own community blind, holding up post offices, off-licences and petrol stations? Who but loyalists demand protection money from those building badly-needed houses and shops in their areas? Who but loyalists terrorise and oppress the people of the Shankill Road? Who but loyalists are destroying the Protestant youth in areas like Ballymena which they have turned into the heroin capital of the North?
Who has ignored the social and economic deprivation of the people of Glenbryn but their own unionist elected representatives?
There is no “implicit threat to the peace process” from the IRA, whereas unionist paramilitary violence is explicit and real. When they are not fighting turf wars these groups are killing Catholics, attacking school kids, burning their classrooms and bombing churches.
Who burned to death Richard, Mark and Jason Quinn in Ballymoney two months after the Belfast Agreement was endorsed in referenda but the UVF? Whose bomb factory was discovered in the Mount Vernon area of Belfast two years ago but the UVF’s? Who planted a car bomb at the Auld Lamas Fair in Ballycastle in August 2001 aimed at incinerating civilians but the UVF?
Who planted ten pipe bombs at a number of locations throughout County Derry last February but the UVF? Who were convicted three months ago of gun-running from Scotland but UVF members Donald Reid and Robert Baird? Whose weapons and uniforms were seized on Saturday night in Belfast but those belonging to the UVF?
Twice, the IRA has put arms beyond use, verified by General John de Chastelain. The UVF not only refuses to decommission but boasts that it will not and PUP leader David Ervine has confirmed that the organisation is rearming, which everyone knew anyway.
“The wholesale targeting of the unionist community?”
Think again, David and Billy.
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© 2007 Irish Author and Journalist - Danny Morrison