|Across north Belfast to Rathcoole.|
I’m a little bit slow off the mark with this one, and Pete Baker on Slugger has already juxtaposed new party leader Brian Ervine’s insistence that the PUP should not act as ’an apologist’ for violence, with Ken Wilkinson’s comments about street violence in Newtownabbey, doing just that.
It’s the usual story, as parroted by generations of republicans and loyalists. A riot in the Rathcoole Estate can be ascribed to the presence of police, who raided houses in the area, in order to investigate UVF murders and other crimes.
The PUP recently voted to retain its link with paramilitaries, a connection which Ervine alleges ’fixates’ the media and prevents it reporting the party’s ’tremendous work’. Work that members clearly believe would be undermined without the patronage of the UVF and ’Red Hand Commando’.
The necessity of the paramilitary connection is usually explained by a euphemism beloved of Troubles apologists - ’conflict transformation’. It is underpinned by an implication that terrorist groups and their members were victims of social and economic circumstance, rather than free agents engaged in criminal activity.
If we strip away the mealy mouthed, earnest nonsense, its purpose is to transform authority and influence once sustained by violence, into political esteem and money. It’s about giving ’the men’ what they believe they deserve.
The fact that this process is far less developed on the loyalist as opposed to the republican side, is the source of the much vaunted anger, which exists within working class Protestant communities.
The problem with ’conflict transformation’, wherever it takes places in Northern Ireland, is that it rewards people who deserve to be punished. It perpetuates their authority, which they established through illegal means, and it sustains their self-deluding and self-justifying mythology.
In republican areas it has been tolerated as a short-term price of peace, but it is ultimately to the detriment of any community.