Derry Journal

**Finally some intelligent soul asks the right question.

What About Loyalist Guns?

Tuesday 12th October 2004

There has been so much attention on the issue of IRA guns in recent months that any outside observer may be excused for thinking that republicans are the only people in possession of illegal weapons.

It is, therefore, high time that an equal emphasis was placed on the necessity for the decommissioning of loyalist paramilitary weapons.

Indeed, the only shots being fired in Northern Ireland recently are those resulting from feuds between loyalist paramilitaries.

In spite of this, however, some unionists brazenly outspoken in their demands for Sinn Fein to be banished to the political wilderness as a result of the decommissioning impasse - appear somewhat reticent in calling for the political ostracisation of the representatives of those loyalist parties with acknowledged links to loyalist paramilitaries. Such posturing stinks of double standards.

One such politician who should be doing more to secure loyalist paramilitary disarmament is the PUP's David Ervine.

It is simply not good enough for Mr. Ervine to say loyalists will only move on the arms issue if the IRA goes out of business.

The East Belfast MLA, speaking at his party's annual conference at the weekend, said all paramilitaries had to end criminal and paramilitary activity and disarm now.

No one could argue with Mr. Ervine's assertion that the IRA needs to bring its activities to an end once and for all, but for loyalists to dish out such advice is a blatant case of the pot calling the kettle black

Let's remember: despite several acts of decommissioning by the IRA, neither the UVF nor the UDA have handed over a single gun or bullet.

Mr. Ervine's latest remarks merely serve to perpetuate the myth that loyalist guns are kept only to defend loyalists from potential republican attack.

The reality is that loyalist guns are not kept silent but are actively used on the streets, whether in the commissioning of serious crime, drug dealing, intimidation, extortion, protection rackets, armed robberies, and violent vigilante attacks or are turned on each other in a series of bloody feuds.

It is imperative that Mr. Ervine, as a politician, does everything within his power to bring an end to all paramilitary violence; as a leader within loyalism, he has a particular responsibility in this regard.

It's been said by others that, for far too long, David Ervine has been allowed to "hide behind eloquent soliloquies and fine sounding platitudes" when it comes to the question of loyalist violence.

The message would, therefore, appear to be simple: less talk, Mr. Ervine, more action.

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