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Loyalism’s shopping list

Immediately after his 13th April election as leader of the PUP, voice of the UVF, David Ervine poured cold water on the idea of Loyalist decommissioning.

“If they did (decommission) they would make out a shopping list that would be diametrically opposed to the IRA’s”

Just what a Loyalist shopping list would look like was spelt out in the Irish Times in February by DUP member Gregory Campbell.

Britishness – barely concealed code for unrestrained sectarian triumphalism a la Garvaghy Road

Political structures – If Stormont is legitimate then the unrestrained rule of the unionist majority is legitimate also – the Catholics should allowed in the executive only if they demonstrate slavish support for the sectarian structures of the state..

Employment opportunities – full-blooded sectarian discrimination in employment without the limited restraints of even the milk and water legislation currently in force.

Inquiry – the ‘truth and reconciliation’ approach typified by the Bloody Sunday inquiry, where no-one will ever be found guilty but where nationalist workers might be able to assume that state murder was wrong and that the British are faintly regretful, is too much of concession for unionists.  They want counter-enquiries to establish that the victims of the state were responsible for the violence.

Given that the UVF are re-arming, that Johnny Adair has been released, that the UDA have been carrying out a low-level pogrom for months and that the DUP are straining every sinew to overtake the OUP as the main unionist party – all this would seem to indicate that the Northern settlement is on its last legs.

But this isn’t the whole picture.  We need also to take into account what the unionists aren’t doing.  The loyalists are very far from any sort of general uprising.  The DUP are quite happily operating the agreement as ministers in the executive.

If loyalist opposition is somewhat deceptive then so also is unionist support for the agreement.  This translates into Trimble, the first minister of the ramshackle executive; launching a raw sectarian attack on the 26-county State, calling for a border poll to establish unionist dominance and put the nationalists in their place and demanding that the republicans prove their total support for the state by disbanding the IRA – if not then he, not the DUP, will bring the agreement down.

What this means is that the Trimble strategy is dominant.  Trimble never at any stage endorsed the idea of a just society in the North.  He argued that the unionists could work inside the agreement and amend it to remove even the suggestion that sectarian privilege would fade away.

The strategy has been an outstanding success.  The RUC remains – the IRA even get blamed for their dirty tricks in the Castlereagh break-in and the limited restraint that Castle Catholic ombudsman Nuala O’Loan might have represented has been seen off. The British now declare that the sectarian state in the North is a ‘cold house’ for unionism and have set about making further concessions to the loyalists and shifting, yet again, the elements of the Good Friday agreement further to the right.

The DUP may yet get many elements of their shopping list and have it called the Good Friday agreement.  Why not?  For their sectarian attacks to bring the house of cards down someone would have to object.  The SDLP, from within the police board, have made it clear their only concern is stability and behind the scenes influence.  The Dublin government have made it clear that David is their friend no matter what raw sectarian attack he cares to make.  Sinn Fein have decommissioned twice and now say that they support the thugs in the Garda.  If the bully-boys of one partitionist police force are OK why not the bully-boys of the RUC/PSNI?

Marxists argue that the Northern state is irreformable.  If it weren’t based on a sectarian head-count there would be no point in it existing.  Recent history proves us right.



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