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Britain’s bribery strategy – why the NIO feeds Loyalist gangs

Mark Langhammer

21 November 2006

We carry below a recent article from Mark Langhammer reprinted with his permission. The article in general supports our own analysis and recent articles by our own writing team.  We would however like to express our scepticism about Mark’s notion of a better loyalism that existed in the past.

RECENT moves by the UDA’s South East Antrim Brigade to embark on a new direction were set out last week at Carrickfergus.

For a few million, it seems South East Antrim Brigade might become community workers! From the UDA’s perspective, there’s no harm in trying, but why would the NIO bother?

For it is known that loyalists have no mandate, ideology or worldview.

It has no discernible political position. Nihilism, virulent sectarianism and “running areas” (gangsterism to you and I) are the glue that binds the UDA.

Within working-class areas, paramilitaries are widely detested by ordinary people – seen as criminal leeches. Peter Hain, Hugh Orde, the Assets Recovery Agency and the IMC all are agreed that the UDA remains deeply engaged in criminality.

Working people never pass up on the only safe opportunity they get to punish paramilitaries – at the ballot box. There would be widespread support (and relief) in loyalist areas for steady repression aimed at “rolling up” loyalist paramilitants. Policing loyalists in ever decreasing circles should be the aim of the government, and the best way of allowing working class Protestant districts to breathe and grow.

The South East Antrim initiative, as with the efforts of Jackie McDonald’s “main stream” UDA, have been choreographed through Jonathan Powell. So what motivates Blair’s right hand man to keep loyalists “onside”?

The notion that the UDA has asked the British and Irish governments for millions to help ‘retire’ its thousands of members - to create jobs, tackle racism and undertake a spot of community work - is the least believable line. Loyalism has changed.

A survey of loyalist Long Kesh prisoners in 1977 showed many to be skilled tradesmen, in ‘respectable’ orders and, almost universally, trade union members.

The UDA no longer draws from that strata. Today’s raw recruits are not idealists, but dead-end, unskilled, fodder. People in need of help, for sure, but rarely capable of giving community leadership.

The NTO wants funding streams to retain and control some semblance of command structure within loyalist paramilitarism.

They fear the ‘fall out’ if matters are not managed. Peter Hain recently stated that the Ombudsman’s report into the UVF murder of Raymond McCord Jnr would make “awkward reading” for the British State.

This report will point to the frightening degree to which the state’s intelligence services are intertwined with loyalism, directing its activity. Informers and agents within loyalism are highly combustible   “assets” that need nursed to a safe landing over time. That’s what the millions are for.

The McCord case relates to the UVF, not UDA, but is a major driver to the recent flurry of bribery. 
The central charge within the McCord case is that Special Branch directed the Mount Vernon UVF – a gang which murdered up to 15 innocents with full and prior knowledge of Branch handlers.
An ancillary consideration is whether the UVF’s Shankill based central command has – for more than 20 years – been working under the direction of the security services.
This allegation was set out in a British Irish Rights Watch report, and raised in the Dail by Labour Party leader, Pat Rabbitte last year.

Mrs O’Loan seems to have investigated Mr McCord’s complaints with a “straight bat” presenting the DPP with a recommendation for multiple Special Branch prosecutions. Faced with O’Loan’s determination to produce a proper investigation, the McCord case is causing awkwardness on the British side. It is, however, barely conceivable that the British will allow its operatives to be thrown to the wolves, however.

If the UVF is compromised, the UDA is a highly unstable cocktail of competing criminal fiefdoms which must be considered altogether too volatile to be left to its own devices, or vices.
That’s why millions need spending on brief cases for Loyalists.

Mark Langhammer is a member of the Irish Labour Party's National Executive Committee



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