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Threats from the UVF but Bertie tells them not to worry

Joe Craig

27 April 2007

Just a couple of weeks ago it was revealed that police had warned over 100 people about their safety because their personal details were in the hands of the UVF.  This information had come to the loyalist paramilitaries via the usual route – the police themselves and a member of the British Army’s Royal Irish Regiment.  Recently the police Chief Constable, Sir High Orde, had made light of such events by claiming that ‘everyone knew where everyone else lives’ which could, but of course wasn’t, seen as shameless indifference to the threat posed.

The public was quickly reassured by the UVF’s political wing in the shape of Dawn Purvis that there was no such threat.  She sits on the policing Board but no one thought to ask her how she could simultaneously know the secret workings of a loyalist death squad and be part of the governing body of the force supposed to bring them to account.

The following week the Independent Monitoring Commission reported on the loyalist paramilitaries that ‘unless the leadership can deliver results in the very near future we will be forced to the conclusion that they are either unwilling or unable to bring about real change. . . If their leaderships do not demonstrate that they are capable of implementing fundamental change very quickly it will show that their organisations are no more than ill-controlled and violent criminal gangs, which should expect to be treated as such.’  Why they should have expected to be treated for the last forty years as anything else is surely a more vital question.

Almost thirteen years after the ‘true remorse’ expressed at their ceasefire both loyalist groups, the UDA and UVF, have made it clear that they will not be decommissioning their weapons. The British maintain the pretence that they haven’t heard the message, continuing to provide them with political cover and patronage on the non-promise of good behaviour sometime in the indefinite future.


The following week Purvis visited Dublin to speak to Bertie Ahern.  ‘We sought assurances that there would be no joint authority and the Taoiseach told us, as far as he is concerned, the constitutional question had been settled and is off the table.  There is no Plan B and they’ll not be working towards any Plan B.  They’re quire happy to work the Good Friday agreement and the St. Andrews Agreement and I am assured by that’ said Purvis.

In his role of defender of Northern Catholics Ahern did not ask Purvis anything about the recent UVF threats and nor was he so impolite as to raise the question of the worst atrocity of the troubles, which his government is supposedly trying to discover the truth about, when the UVF, undoubtedly with British help, exploded three no warning bombs in Dublin and one in Monaghan killing 34 people.

Instead the meeting was ‘warm and cordial.’  No wonder.  Ahern made it clear that a central tenet of the peace process was to be held tightly, no matter what the consequences and no matter how grotesque – the peace process should ‘leave no one behind.’

Behind this it was possible to see the real source of such warmth and cordiality.  Purvis explained that the loyalist groups wanted ‘political stability’ and secure devolved government in the North.  This is exactly what Ahern and every capitalist politician in the South also wants.  As Ahern said, the constitutional question has been settled and is off the table.

The problem now is not that - 93 years after the UVF supposedly introduced the gun into Irish politics by landing a ship full of rifles at Larne – Irish nationalism has accepted partition.  The problem is that having accepted the validity of the loyalist position the loyalists want the payment due from this recognition of their rights.

Ignoring past and present threats is not hard for Irish nationalist politicians.  Nor is giving these organisations a political status their electoral support hardly warrants, or giving them money to cement their position within the Protestant working class.  Potentially they take a risk that this open patronage leaves them exposed when the loyalists, as they have continually done, misbehave; but since no one in nationalism opposes the overall process no real risk is taken.

The problem is that the open blurring of State and nominally illegal activity is not sustainable in the long run and that when anger at the latter finds an expression it will not forget or fail to notice the role of the former in sponsoring it.


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