Observers are wondering what exactly is happening within the UDA. Reports suggest that a split has developed between the paramilitary organisation’s north Antrim / County Londonderry members and those who belong to an ‘inner council’ based in Belfast. Last Thursday night, in the Waterside area of Derry, a ‘spontaneous’ march is said to have taken place organised by the ‘Ulster Political Research Group’ in the area.
The UPRG is considered either to be the ‘political wing’ of the UDA, or ‘closely connected’ to the terrorists, depending on the degree of Orwellian language that you are prepared to tolerate. Whichever description one favours, no political representatives have been elected under the group’s auspices.
It is widely supposed that the Belfast based UDA leadership is prepared to destroy its remaining illegally held weapons, whilst in north Antrim and County Londonderry, pivotal figures do not wish to disarm. Whether that disagreement has sprung from the implication, by some sources, that local UDA members were involved in the sectarian murder of Kevin McDaid or whether the scale of government bribery is not considered sufficient to justify renouncing crime, relevant UPRG branches have now withdrawn their support for power-sharing and for the PSNI.
Justifying the Londonderry march, spokesman David Malcolm (not, I presume, the Irish League referee), issued a statement sodden with self-pity.
‘Loyalism’ had been systematically ‘vilified’ and a ‘policing agenda’ is ‘set against’ loyalist communities’. “Loyalist communities have been disenfranchised, isolated and have received no benefits from the Good Friday Agreement”. ‘Mainstream unionism’ has failed to support ‘loyalist communities’ (yes it’s that phrase again). It’s almost enough to make one shed a tear.
I have no doubt that mainstream politicians charged with representing areas which are considered ‘loyalist’ are guilty by omission. One of the most serious omissions is failing to combat the cancerous affect of paramilitarism. Whatever influence these people have established in communities that they now presume to represent has been built up through fear, intimidation and crime.
When the UPRG / UDA talk about funding and initiatives they envisage projects which they are involved in and which they will benefit from. They see themselves as conduits between the so called ’community’ and the government. But communities cannot be nurtured by underpinning the authority of their worst criminal elements. Where else in the UK would government agencies turn to an area’s gangsters, murderers and thugs to oversee its regeneration?
If ‘loyalism’ has been vilified it is because ‘loyalism’ is assumed to be intimately connected with vicious sectarian groups like the UDA and UVF. If ’loyalism’ is assumed to be intimately connected with vicious sectarian groups like the UDA and UVF it is because those groups have acted as self-appointed arbiters of communities which are considered ‘loyalist’. If the ’policing agenda’ is ’set against’ ‘loyalist’ areas, it is because paramilitaries have rooted themselves in those areas so deeply that they have become synonymous with the groups.
Whichever way you care to balance the equation, the organisations are the core of the problem, not part of the solution.
If the UDA has any genuine concern for the communities which it claims to represent, it should immediately disarm, disband and disappear. It is not wanted, in any capacity, by any thinking person. It has held those communities back and it is often the reason that they are not flourishing.
Apologies for the number of inverted commas but they seem the appropriate response to the lexicon applicable to the topic.