The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
Loyalist Violence
Newton Emerson • 16. 10. 03

Last week Martin McGuinness presented a dossier to the British and Irish governments detailing 160 incidents of loyalist violence against Catholics over the past three months. The document, which might as well have been titled ‘But – themmuns!’ claimed that British ‘securocrats’ control the UDA and that Ulster Unionist politicians who have met with loyalists should indicate when violence would come to an end. However there were no recommendations on how to deal with the situation, certainly no policy suggestions and not even a reference to the proposed anti-sectarianism legislation being considered by the Secretary of State. The dossier was a depressing reminder not only of the current level of loyalist violence but of Sinn Fein’s utter uselessness in confronting it. Still they’re hardly alone on that score – nobody else seems to have a clue either.

The fate of the loyalist parties during and after the Good Friday Agreement tells the tale. First the political establishment promoted loyalism’s representatives to an outrageous extent in the hope of creating a ‘balancing’ pro-agreement power bloc – revealing an attitude in both London and Dublin that loyalism is just the protestant version of republicanism. This colonial mentality obviously views Northern Ireland’s quarrel as a dispute between two indistinguishable tribes where a solution applicable to one side will be equally applicable to the other. Then the DUP panicked and, in one of the most cynical acts of modern unionist history, offered up the Reverend William McCrea to LVF leader Billy Wright as a sort of sacrificial idiot to see if there was any political mileage in an anti-agreement loyalist position. Finally, disgusted with the entire exercise, the wider unionist electorate rejected the loyalist parties out of hand, definitively proving that loyalism is not and never will be the mirror-image of republicanism. The DUP learned its lesson and has since inched, with identical cynicism but laudable pragmatism, towards an anti-loyalist stance. However nobody else learnt a thing – half-hearted attempts to nurture ‘political loyalism’ continue to this day.

Yet the distinction between loyalism and republicanism is transparently obvious. Unionists who wish to fight for their country or protect their community join the security forces – loyalism simply hoovers up the dregs. Unionists can have no consistent sympathy, however sneaking, for organisations which break British law, kill British subjects and undermine Northern Ireland and the union through crime and violence. When unionists disavow loyalism we are not playing presentational games – our self-righteousness is quite sincere. Go and count David Ervine’s ballots again if you don’t believe me - it won’t take you long.

Yet the British government holds back from seriously tackling loyalism for fear of creating a ‘protestant backlash’. There is possibly no greater insult to the unionist people than this belief that, despite all electoral evidence to the contrary, we remain loyalist sympathisers at heart who will demand a green scalp for every orange one. Even the complete absence of such demands during tentative crackdowns has failed to sway this official article of no-faith. A revealing example occurred last year when the rump of the LVF robbed a bank in Tandragee. Within days every possible culprit in mid-Ulster had been lifted and questioned. Arrests, convictions and long prison sentences followed and the LVF was effectively wiped out in Portadown. If you don’t recall hearing any screams of Unionist indignation about this that’s because there weren’t any. At the risk of sounding like a member of the Worker’s Party it seems that after all the LVF had done, all the people they had killed, they finally crossed the line only when major business interests were threatened. Re-drawing that line down the Deerpark Road is not beyond the United Kingdom’s capabilities.

Sinn Fein feels unable to call for security measures against loyalists because of an ideological objection to British rule in general and a stubborn hang-up over policing in particular. Although Sinn Fein has already dumped its ideological objections to partition, power-sharing and Stormont the one compromise that would pressurise the authorities into better-protecting its own constituents is apparently beyond it. Instead Sinn Fein plays sectarian victim politics for want of a better idea and bleats about ‘securocrat collusion’ to maintain the fiction that the British are still the real bad guys, even though it is clear that the loyalists are the bad guys and that Britain’s real clandestine aim on that score is a misguided attempt to create a loyalist version of Sinn Fein itself.

There is something republicans can do about loyalist attacks beyond compiling dossiers. They can end their cynical wait for ‘community solutions’. They can snap out of their fixation with dogma and openly demand that specific action be taken. They can participate in policing and force change. There will be no protestant backlash.

Loyalist violence is amenable, practically and politically, to an aggressive security solution. Let’s see Martin McGuinness call for that in his next report.





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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
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Index: Current Articles

18 October 2003


Other Articles From This Issue:


Hold Onto Your Guns
Liam O Comain


Loyalist Violence
Newton Emerson


Sleeping With the Enemy
Kathleen O Halloran


Whatever Happened to the Anti War Movement?
Brendan O'Neill


Free Joe & Clare
Davy Carlin


Theodor Adorno
Liam O Ruairc


The Desaparecidos
Anthony McIntyre


The Letters Page has been updated.


12 October 2003


Tribalism is little more than the lowest common denominator
Thomas Gore


Separation vs. Segregation
Eamon Sweeney


The Legitimacy of Our Struggle
Liam O Comain


Not Losing His Way
Anthony McIntyre


A Hero of Reknown
Kathleen O Halloran


West Belfast - Childhood and the Wars
Davy Carlin


Abduction of Republican
32 County Sovereignty Committee


RSF attend Sardinian Conference
Des Dalton




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