Rewards for UDA thugs are misdirected

(Brian Feeney, Irish News)

There's one conclusion you can draw about the attitude of the British
administration in the north to the UDA – it's consistent. The UDA has
always been the NIO's favourite paramilitary organisation. Perhaps
that's understandable since it was created and artificially sustained
by British intelligence and RUC Special Branch since 1971 as a
classic 'counter-gang'. Despite the fact that the UDA carried out the
most appalling torture murders of the Troubles, it was kept legal
until 1992 by which time its members had killed nearly 400 people,
the vast majority of whom were innocent Catholics.

A revealing memo to Prime Minister Ted Heath in November 1972 from a
senior Ministry of Defence official explained that 'an important
function (sic) of the UDA is to channel into a constructive and
disciplined direction Protestant energies which might otherwise
become disruptive'. The UDA had murdered 71 people that year.
Sickening, eh? The official went on to point out helpfully that since
the UDA was not illegal, membership of the paramilitary group would
not 'automatically' disbar a man from membership of the UDR. Well we
know that to our cost.

Several years later when the then EEC decided to distribute its
butter and meat mountains to the poor and the NIO was looking for
charity organisations to hand out the stuff because they would know
the needy in their districts, they naturally turned to groups like
the St Vincent de Paul and the Salvation Army and, yes, you've
guessed it, their paramilitaries of choice, the UDA. Beggars belief
doesn't it?

Put simply, the British administration here has laboured consistently
for 30 years to promote a criminal conspiracy into a position of
authority and respect in the most impoverished Protestant
communities. Their failure over the last 30 years has also been
consistent. The so-called 'function' of the UDA the civil servant
described to Ted Heath was and remains a civil service fantasy. When
John Reid met the UDA's leaders three years ago after the summer of
mayhem they had organised, his statements were almost verbatim those
of our present proconsul. Perhaps the same officials wrote them?

What has been the net effect of the last 30 years of NIO policies
promoting the UDA? Let's leave aside for the moment the obvious
effects on the murder rate of the failure to pursue the UDA with
anything like a fraction of the energy devoted to any manifestation
of republicanism. Let's leave to another time the fact that the
British supplied the UDA with modern weaponry in the 1980s and tried
to direct them to murder republicans instead of ordinary Fenians.

Let's stay with the 'important function' the British invented the UDA
for. The single most evident result has been the opposite of their
aim: the debasement, demoralisation and destruction of the
communities the NIO allowed the UDA to batten on and dominate. Even
in the last few years the administration here stood by and allowed
the Adair-dominated UDA to wreck the efforts the PUP had made to
establish a viable political structure in working-class loyalist
districts. The result? The loss of the hard-won PUP position in the
assembly and now the boosting and rewarding of those who destroyed

The whole approach is based on the belief that the loyalist working
class is the mirror image of the nationalist/republican working-
class. It isn't and never has been. Loyalists support the state: it's
their state. They supported the police, their police. They have their
own native regiment of foot. They have their own politicians. When
local UDA gangsters stand for election even the members of their own
criminal organisation don't vote for them. The most the UDA has ever
got was 2% of the vote. If they do vote they prefer the DUP. Yet the
NIO political wizards persist in stabbing local representatives of
unionist parties and community groups in the back by rewarding the
UDA drug-dealers and racketeers in their midst as if they represented
someone or something other than thuggery and gangsterism.

Will it be any different this time? Of course not. After the next
outburst of mayhem does anyone believe the UDA leaders the proconsul
snuggled up to will be arrested for being UDA leaders? There's you
thinking it was an illegal organisation. More seriously, what does
any parent say now to a teenage son who proposes to join the UDA?
Didn't the proconsul tell him they're into 'job creation, social
inclusion and community politics'? It's like putting Dracula in
charge of a blood bank. It's an utter betrayal of local unionist
elected representatives. After all, they're the people unionists in
those districts vote for. Isn't it extraordinary that they're so meek
about it? Maybe it's because they've been accustomed to thinking the
British administration here is 'their' government.

November 18, 2004

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