Tuesday, 19 May 2009

A lesson in credulity. UDA poster story a smear?

In a story yesterday, detailing the launch of the Conservative election manifesto, I rather lazily gave way to the assumption that there might be some truth to rumours that a UDA ‘brigadier’ had erected Jim Nicholson posters in North Belfast. In the absence of any denial from the UUP, and appreciating the tangled situation which exists on the ground in many of these areas (I live in one), I suspected that local laziness or thoughtlessness might have made such a scenario possible. It was a hasty judgment to reach and, I suspect, quite probably an erroneous one.

It is my understanding that, contrary to claims on Slugger O’Toole, the Sunday World’s story was not confirmed by a photograph. Indeed it is based on the supposed testimony of one witness, an unnamed pastor. A pastor in North Belfast who clearly believed he could be identified as the source has contacted the Sunday World to deny any involvement in the story.

It just goes to demonstrate that these type of smear stories, which appear particularly frequently in newspapers around election time, should be treated with utmost caution.

Jim Nicholson’s opposition to paramilitaries is on record.

"It is also deeply worrying that the IMC report again points to the evidence that paramilitary organisations - both republican and loyalist - are involved in ongoing criminality. Such crime holds back our entire society. Again, the PSNI need the full support of our entire community if this threat is to be confronted and overcome"

Update: The UUP has issued the following statement.

Over the past few days a number of newspapers have alleged that a ‘UDA commander’ or ‘UDA Brigadier’ was helping to put up posters for Jim Nicholson MEP in North Belfast.

This is not true.

Two community groups---the Tigers Bay Concerned Residents Association and Community Voice---have been working very closely with the Ulster Unionist Party over the past few years in the area, addressing socio-economic issues. Both groups have also been working closely with the PSNI, local churches and a wide range of other community groups.

The Ulster Unionist Party has also been engaging with the Ulster Political Research Group (UPRG), seeking to persuade Loyalist paramilitaries to decommission and to direct themselves towards democracy and community politics.

Members of the Tigers Bay and Community Voice groups volunteered to put up posters for Jim Nicholson. These groups have no links with the UDA.

No UDA ‘Commander’ or ‘Brigadier’ put up posters for Jim Nicholson.

Jim Nicholson commented:

“The work being done by groups like Community Voice and TBCRA is vitally important if Northern Ireland is ever to move forward. It is important, too, that democratic political parties do everything they can to encourage people in these areas to participate in normal, everyday politics. And that means proving to them that normal, everyday politics works and addresses their concerns.

“The Ulster Unionist Party has been at the forefront of these efforts and we will continue to do everything it can to ensure that paramilitarism (from whatever source) becomes a thing of the past; and that community politics is built around the needs and concerns of ordinary people.

"The Ulster Unionist Party has been unstinting in its view that loyalist organisations must decommission and must cease all criminal activities. Most recently I repeated this call in the aftermath of the IMC Report. I want to see all sections of opinion in Northern Ireland embrace exclusively political and democratic politics. This means leaving behind - fully and permanently - the violence and criminality of the past".


E.A.Blair said...

Living in the constituency in question, with no axe to grind on the issue, I can confirm that it is common knowledge in the area that the local 'boys' have been involved in putting the posters up. As they were at the last Assembly election to assist the campaign of the incumbent MLA. The local branch does not exist in anything but name, and has for years held a policy of refusing entry to anyone who the controlling family believe might prove troublesome to their hold on it. Headquarters (first Glengall St, and latterly Cunningham House) have been unwilling to deal with this matter, as they disn't want to rock the boat either.

Ignited said...

I think everyone supporting Jim hopes this is a smear. The problem they have is there is form for North Belfast having paramilitaries doing electioneering for UUP.

As O'Neill says when and if the major newspapers pick up on it then the trouble begins.

O'Neill said...

"As O'Neill says when and if the major newspapers pick up on it then the trouble begins."


I'm more curious why, other Mick Fealty's column in the DT, they haven't. No having read the original story, I was under the impression until yesterday evening there was photographic evidence involved with this...there apparently isn't and if the one anonymous witness is not withdrawing his eveidence, well then...

Another interesting point to consider is why the DUP's main website ignored it, an Intra-Unionist smear, right up their street.

Ignited said...

Could be a load of crap then, let's hope so!

Carson's Cat said...

If you seriously believe there is no truth to this story then your credibility as some kind of informed commentator is absolutely zero!

Its an open secret how the UUP have operated in North Belfast for decades, not even years.

It has been the "rotten borough" of the UUP since the 1970s and it hasn't changed since then. The 'boys' have put nearly all the posters up in just about every election in the last decade or more.

It may not have been confirmed with a picture - but that certainly doesn't invalidate the truth to the story.

Mick said...

Guys, let me say (and if you read the Brassneck piece you'll pick this up) this a dirty story for *both* main unionist parties.

I personally have NO doubts about its provenance. And no mention at the DUP press conference, despite the antics of CC and his party colleagues on Slugger, nor one Press Release tells me the DUP aren't interested in pursuing it too publicly either.

Frankly, which is more damaging: a UDA Brigadier putting up posters on your behalf, or the First Minister okaying external funding to take the matter out of the hands of his Social Development Minister?

Instead of questioning validity the story through ifs and maybes, the UUP should be getting to work cleaning up its act at the toxic edges.

Cameron comes on Thursday. You should get a boost from that. But it is your party that needs to live up to Mr Cameron's lofty promise of a non sectarian future, not the other way round.

Westminster, Stormont and Brussels are not the only Augean stables that need to be cleared during this recession. If this one in your own back yard is not dealt with, it will deal with you!

Chekov said...

I wonder whether there’s almost a difficulty engaging in some communities and not interacting with paramilitaries at some level (leaving aside the poster issue). Insisting on being whiter than white will probably leave any party open to the charge of abandoning working areas. Which in my view is a price worth paying. But I think the risk is there none the less, because in some communities, paramilitarism is endemic.

yourcousin said...

The question isn't interaction on some level (encouraging them to disarm etc.) but using them as volunteers at election time, big difference.

Working hand in glove with paramilitaries, especially in loyalist areas is essentially abandoning those areas, as paramilitarism is up to its eyeballs in the drug trade, amongst other issues. Forget being whiter than white, both unionist parties are guilty of complicity and hypocrisy on this matter. If they spent half as much time cleaning up their relationships with paramilitaries as they told SF they had to they'd be doing well and stories like this wouldn't be popping up right before Cameron comes to town.

Mick said...


Cousin has it bang on. I know well enough how difficult it is to be on the ground in such areas and pull of legit politics, but the direct association is the problem.

You need to be free and automous agents to set a positive political and social agenda. Joint membership occudes that. Barnardos high court judgement yesterday kind of illustrates a related point.