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Loyalist Feud: Mailed Fist behind Mailed Glove
At the height of the latest feud between the various factions of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) Billy Hutchinson of the Progressive Unionist Party (PUP), voice of the Loyalist killers of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), pointed the finger of blame at a hitherto unnamed third party in the feud. He alleged that the British state forces were an active player, running cover for Mad Dog Adair’s gunmen when they went on runs and obstructing the rest of the UDA when they tried to organise hits.
We should take Billy seriously on this. He knows what he’s talking about. In a previous feud between the UVF and UDA the numerically weaker UVF were able to hold their own because of this surreptitious support from the state. The reasons in both cases are the same. In the various feuds the British are keen to support the ‘peace’ wing of loyalism. In the previous feud this was seen to be the UVF. For most of the recent feud the Mad Dog was seen as the dove.
Of course all of this is the purest nonsense. There is no peace wing to loyalism. Loyalists, and their feuds, are in equal measure about who is the biggest bigot and who controls drugs, protection and prostitution (much of which is child prostitution). Within days of the ending of the UDA – UVF feud. Hutchinson, who likes to describe himself as a socialist, was on the front line of the offensive against the primary school children of Holy Cross. Even stranger is the idea of Mad Dog Adair as a peacenik – that would make a horse laugh.
The British mean something different from peace. They mean the Loyalists willing to support the Good Friday Agreement. The reason that they are so anxious to develop, support and protect this layer is quite simple. They want to save Loyalism from itself and retain it as an instrument in the negotiations as an extra element of pressure on Sinn Fein and more generally as a layer in society to make clear the limits to what Catholic workers can expect in a Northern State. In their attempt to develop a political loyalism they are fighting a loosing battle in a milieu notoriously sectarian and apolitical.
How did Mad Dog Adair become the peace dove? He had been returned to jail under quasi-internment regulations for sparking the initial turf war with the UVF. On his release he immediately set about attempting to set himself up as supremo of the conglomeration of local criminal gangs that make up the UDA.
The release came after British attempts to call a halt to the horrendous sectarian onslaught at Holy Cross primary school with a major campaign of appeasement of loyalism. Locally this meant ‘conflict resolution’ that conceded to demands for apartheid through a system of ‘peace walls’ sealing off the Catholic ghettoes. More generally it meant Secretary of State Reid declaring that Northern Ireland had become ‘a cold house for Unionists’ and signalling a willingness to further tweak the Good Friday Agreement to the right.
Adair began to look like a gift to the British, signalling a willingness to pay lip service to the Good Friday Agreement while projecting himself as the man who could control the UDA and bring order to the anarchic sectarianism of the organisation. Reid endorsed Adiar’s project at an ‘accidental’ meeting in East Belfast, followed by a respectful interview on British radio where his new claims to be a peaceful champion of Protestant workers seeking a new political career where accepted without comment. The most bizarre moment came when Adair joined the gravy train himself, being accepted as a prisoner rehabilitation officer with peace funding!
Alas, it was all built on sand. The one thing all the warlords have in common is resistance to a supremo. After early success in North Belfast, where the local warlord was replaced by henchman Andre Soukri and successful infiltration into south Belfast Adair ran into trouble in the East. He reacted by forming an alliance with the drug barons of Portadown’s LVF and the attack on the local UDA leader led to outright war.
When Soukri jumped ship Adair was doomed. The British resignedly put him back in choaky, making it clear to the other warlords that the fun was over and that they would be better taking a holiday.
The weird tale shows yet again the falsity of the idea that these criminal gangs are the voice of the Protestant working class. They are convenient tools of the British State, and the British go to great trouble to preserve them. The voice is the voice of loyalism. The hand is the hand of Britian, telling us how it is going to be in the grim sectarian hellhole we inhabit.