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Loyalists slip through the “peace” net

Ethnic cleansing, Sectarian killing, gangland battles in full orange regalia with ceremonial swords and pikes, dramatic walkouts from meeting and statements that they no longer support the Good Friday agreement.  All these add up to only one answer – the loyalist paramilitaries are slowly but surely slipping out of the political process and back to what they do best.

The reason is very simple.  The loyalists are what they appear to be – sectarian gangsters with no real political base who prey on Protestant workers as well as Catholic and have no hope of building a political base.  The UDP leader, Johnny Adair, at present interned by the British, is the subject of a hilarious campaign – his only crime was loyalty!  Anyone tempted to fill in the real list on the posters would quickly run out of paper.  The UDP have a ramshackle organisation for accepting community grants (in reality bribes to keep quiet) but its so poor that they failed even to register the name of their party for electoral purposes.

The UVF and their mouthpieces in the PUP have a more organised base after years of copying the Provos and looking for political advice on the British far right but, despite a sympathetic press and the – to speak bluntly – criminal behaviour of sections of the left in endorsing their brand of reaction and class resentment as socialism, they too are failing for exactly the same reason as the UDA.

As we indicate elsewhere this is far short of a crisis. The loyalists have been running a low-level war against Catholics since the beginning of the ceasefire.  As long as they keep it within bounds the British can use a combination of carrot and stick, peace funds and police surveillance to control them.

What it does mean is that those who accept the Good Friday agreement have to accept loyalist intimidation as part of the background baggage and that working-class opposition will have as one of its tasks that of defence against state-sponsored thugs.


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