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UDA ‘victims’ receive compensation from the British

Joe Craig

23 March 2007

The decision by the British government to give £1.2 million to the UDA political front organisation, the Ulster Political Research Group, which has no politics and does no research, came on the same day as the much vaunted devolution dividend by Gordon Brown.  The difference is that the former is a lot clearer than the latter, which – the more one looks at it – offers nothing new.

This open patronage of the loyalist murder group also coincided with the appearance in court of two men linked to UDA criminality.  The first involved a demand for protection money from a builder in Rathcoole and in the second a leading West Belfast loyalist, Mo Courtney, pleading guilty to manslaughter of a fellow UDA member in one of the recent feuds.  Both were a timely reminder that the British government has come into the open in financing a group still universally acknowledged to be up to its neck in criminality; a group that has not decommissioned a single weapon, and has not even started talking about it, except to say that it’s not going to happen any time soon.

The widespread view is that this is a form of blackmail with the British paying for the (relative) good behaviour of the paramilitary group.  This however gets the chain of command the wrong way round.  The UDA is not strong-arming the British.  The British are rewarding their long-standing accomplices for their service.

The money is a concrete demonstration that in the new political dispensation there remains a role for loyalist sectarian violence.  It is to be legitimised and given a privileged role in the working class areas terrorised by it over the last thirty years lest any more progressive alternative arise.  In return it must not rock the boat but sit there as a reminder that too great demands for radical change face the threat of a return to violence.  For the British the continued prominence of the UDA is a threat to any who oppose British rule that the only alternative to the peace process is a return to violence and, just like the first time, these are the boys who will unleash it. 

With no ‘war’ to justify its activities and only fellow paramilitaries standing in the way of growing criminal empires this money will help stabilise the group and save it from disintegrating into the uncontrolled gangsterism which would tear it apart.  This possibility has been raised a number of times in UDA history and each time the British have stepped in to save the organisation from itself, in the past through money, weaponry, agents and intelligence to make its sectarian killing more effective.


It would be wrong however to shrug one’s shoulders and say that the British have just changed from providing weapons, agents and intelligence to providing money.  In the past such collusion was hidden.  Now British patronage is open and brazen.  It has become acceptable.

Open parading of gross sectarianism is the hallmark of the peace process because this is how the new society is expected to work.  In the absence of a real democratic solution acceptance of the Northern State means acceptance of the poisonous sectarianism which has always justified its existence and makes it tick.  The open patronage of sectarian murder gangs is thus only possible because of a complete collapse of political understanding of the need to oppose  the State.

This is not the first such funding for the UDA, and this latest is only the first of others.  The Irish President’s husband, who could not have acted without his wife’s approval and that of the Irish government, gave £20,000 to the UDA, allowing it to portray itself as the legitimate supporter of working class Protestant needs.  A similar amount in EU funding ultimately went to pay a UDA leader’s gambling debts.

The rhetorical tricks used to justify this and the current sponsorship are worthless but have the baseless currency they do because they express the ideological justification of the peace process.  Thus the rush to victimhood is joined by the UDA, and the mass sectarian killers declare that ‘we too are victims.’  Worse they identify themselves with their victims by talking about the necessity of such funding for the loyalist community when by ‘loyalist community’ they really mean themselves.  Those they terrorise become victims twice over by being identified with the terrorists.

This process of take over of working class Protestant areas is one that the British government has now explicitly endorsed.  Justifying the money Peter Hain said that ‘for sometime now the political leadership of the loyalist community associated with the UDA has wanted to move the whole of the community away from paramilitarism and gangsterism and criminality on to a democratic political path.’

We have one more example of what the British government means by democracy.  Anyone seeking genuine democratic change has to realise that this latest example of shameless sectarianism is not a blemish on the otherwise handsome face of the new political settlement but a true expression of its essential character.


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