The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Doris Dead

The activities of loyalist paramilitaries no longer fool anyone. Much of it has long since descended into gangsterism, drug-dealing and organised crime - Tony Blair

Anthony McIntyre • 5 October 2005

In the 1970s when I heard the South African Justice minister, Jimmy Kruger, claim that the death in custody of Steve Biko had left him cold, an involuntary shiver probably rippled through me. It seemed to epitomise heartlessness and arrogance. The antithesis of empathy, there existed as much human warmth within the mind of Jimmy Kruger as in the lifeless corpse of the murdered Biko.

Steve Biko was not a man who would have taken lightly to being compared with East Belfast murder victim Jim Gray, ironically enough nicknamed Freddie Kruger by some from the area who were today celebrating that there would be no sequel to last night's grand finale. This time there would be no Freddie returns. Relief not grief seemed to be the catchword. Biko was a militant anti-apartheid activist determined to free the people he was part of from the grip of a murderous white supremacist regime. By contrast Gray was a narcoloyalist who saw in the people around him a potential market for his drugs business. Poison the lot of them if need be, blight their lives, destroy their children - as he destroyed the life of his own teenage son - in the interests of nothing other than profit and power.

The sole reason for juxtaposing Biko alongside Gray is to illustrate the manner in which a death can leave people cold. I suppose that and being white is all I have ever shared in common with the racist Jimmy Kruger. When the phone rang minutes after the evening news and a friend told me of Gray's murder, I was not frozen to the point of agreeing with H.H. Munroe who famously said of someone he cared little for, 'he is one of those people who would be enormously improved by death.' Nevertheless what I did feel was that sense of Kruger coldness.

It is not PC to subscribe to the idea that there should be a hierarchy of victims, but in our minds, intellectualise as we might, that hierarchy has firm emotional founds. Killing Gray was a poisonous act. It is no more just merely because it pushed out another noxious substance. But Salman Rushdie's maxim rushes in to tilt the scales of justice away from the flat plain of rich and poor alike being equal in the eyes of the law, and to reinforce that emotional hierarchy: 'when a tyrant falls, the world's shadows lighten, and only hypocrites grieve.' Listening to women merrily discussing Gray's death on radio, followed by political and community personalities on television dispassionately and perfunctorily condemning it, it was clear enough that yesterday was not National Hypocrites Day. Gray paddled his own canoe right into the eye of the storm, and public sympathy, not being a finite resource, declined to follow.

Such sentiment serves neither to recommend the type of cold dish served up to Jim Gray at his father's home as a panacea to the problem posed by the oleaginous operatives of narcoloyalism nor to offer by way of mitigation a rationalisation on behalf of those who killed him. The ethical challenge once posed by Holly Near is possessed of a timeless and universal validity: 'why do we kill people who are killing people to show that killing people is wrong?'

Viewing the life and death of Jim Gray is a lot like watching a film. When Joe Pesci's character in Goodfellas, Tommy DeVito, received what gangster jargon terms 'One Behind the Ear' (OBE), the setting - he was about to become a made man at a mafia ceremony - gave cause for surprise rather than the event. The temporary shock soon gives way to something else and the viewer gets on with it. The audience deprived of all input into the narrative no more shapes the film than society here seems to impact on the affairs of gangster loyalism. Unless, unfortunate enough to live in Ahoghill or some place similar where the monsters and mobsters aggressively intermingle with the local population as if they were the creatures of some malign theme park, viewers have no more influence on what goes on in here than they would have over a Scorsese film. The producers and directors are in the service of the British state. Society is reduced to being a passive audience.

Loyalist gangsters like Gray are a species protected by government, the malignant outcome of a British political strategy that is quite content to promote gangsters as community leaders. What government gets in return is dubious. David Hanson made a very poor show of detailing the quid pro quo when interviewed on Spotlight last evening, behaving as if he was on a postmodernist quiz show where points were awarded for avoiding every question.

Before his arrest on money laundering charges earlier this year, it was common place to hear allegations from within the loyalist community that Gray frequently drank with senior PSNI members in the Point at Ballyhackamore, the Culloden Hotel, and in Bangor bars. Was he only permitted to run his crime empire with the approval of officialdom while he was in the UDA and as soon as it ditched him, then it was considered timely to remove him? If so, that is an open invitation from government to aspiring crime bosses to join the UDA and live under the considerable benefits of protectionism rather than risk their 'business' ventures in the more laissez faire world outside the paramilitaries.

Frankie Gallagher of the UPRG was scathing of Gray on BBC Talkback this afternoon. Refreshingly, speaking no ill of the dead did not figure centrallly in Gallagher's sense of propriety. Continuing in the same vein that saw him pillory Gray on Spotlight a short time after the drugadier's arrest, the UPRG spokesperson hardly broke stride as he accused Gangster Gray of having created hundreds of victims within the East Belfast unionist community. The flamboyant thug - who gave Hawaiian shirts a bad name - was depicted as a tyrant who strutted around East Belfast like some Serbian warlord. There would be no mourners from Tullycarnet, Gallagher assured his listeners.

Gallagher is fearful that people like Gray are allowed to run for as long as they are because of their use either as informers to the PSNI or as community enforcers similar to the manner in which borstal screws make use of a 'daddy' from amongst the prisoners. He argues that while policing on behalf of the community depends in large part on the police getting good information, the PSNI has lost the plot and employs informers who torment their communities.

For Frankie Gallagher, British government strategy is to criminalise and contain Protestant communities. Whatever about the accuracy of that, if the type of loyalism he ostensibly represents is to make its presence felt, its success will be measured in terms of how rapidly it divests loyalist communities of the UDA and fellow gangsters. There is nothing to be carved from rotten wood, from maintaining that there is a problem in the UDA rather than the UDA being the problem. Throwing more public money at that shower has a parallel in giving foreign aid to corrupt African dictators whose bank balances go up while their citizens life expectancy goes down.



 

 


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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



 

 

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Index: Current Articles



6 October 2005

Other Articles From This Issue:

A Bleak Future
Anthony McIntyre

Provos Censor de Chastelain in Bid to Lie About Guns
Tom Luby

Taking Politics Out of the Gun
Brendan O'Neill

Sinn Fein - The Shark's Party
Mick Hall

Live From Hollywood: The IRA Disarms
Harry Browne

Show Us the Money
Dr John Coulter

Doris Dead
Anthony McIntyre

Whatever Happened to... 'er, You Know... Whatshisname?
Tom Luby

The Dirty War Goes On
George Young

Reject All British Institutions
Kevin Murphy

Capitalism Vs Socialism
Liam O Ruairc

Apology to Dr Dion Dennis and CTheory website
Carrie Twomey


27 September 2005

Analysis: Seconds Out — Round 2005
Anthony McIntyre

Reflections: British Victory at Culloden
Anthony McIntyre

Decommissioning Will Reveal Real Problem
Fr. Sean Mc Manus

Inclusive Republicanism
Maire Cullen

Wish List for Unionist Leadership
Dr John Coulter

Sunday World vs. Thugs
Mick Hall

Real and Relative Poverty
David Adams

How the Poor Live and Die
Fred A Wilcox

Poverty — Do You Get It?
Jan Lightfoottlane

Defending Multiculturalism
Anthony McIntyre

 

 

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