‘When Tory politician William Hague referred to loyalists as ‘thugs’, my heart sank’, claims Roy Garland, in his weekly diatribe against ‘English’ Conservatives. ‘No group of people’ should, he contends, be dismissed in such a way. Not even, apparently, groups whose activities conform to the very definition of thuggery.
First, I don’t believe that Garland’s ‘heart sank’ when the Foreign Secretary attacked loyalist paramilitaries. On the contrary, his communal instincts kicked in, ‘he’s having a go at ussuns as well as themmuns, what an opportunity’ (or words to that effect).
Second, his latest article contains a heart rending tale of a nice young man who joined a paramilitary organisation and then began to change it. Indeed it is positively glowing on the topic of loyalist groups and their stout community work in general.
What a load of twaddle! This is the same narrative, told from a different perspective, which we get from Republicans. Fine young men, compelled by extraordinary circumstances to commit dreadful deeds.
Nobody would claim that paramilitaries are irredeemable. They can gain acceptance by leaving paramilitary groups and joining the lawful society which they have previously terrorised. Attitudes like Garland’s just entrench the influence of shadowy groups within the very communities which he purports to care about.
Loyalist thugs have used guns and intimidation to run areas which, rightly or wrongly, felt under siege. William Hague is absolutely right to pledge to oppose them at every opportunity. Roy Garland, in contrast, demonstrates precisely the moral ambivalence to Protestant terrorists which has undermined unionism over a series of decades.
No group of people deserve to be labelled thugs? How about the morons who murdered Kevin McDaid.