Half-baked peace better than none

Posted By: October 19, 2015

Tom Kelly, Irish News, Monday, 19, 2015

ONE of the most successful aspects of our so-called peace process is that has almost become an industry of its own as legions of former politicians, civil servants, peaceniks, community activists, prisoners and combatants traverse the world to share the Northern Ireland experience.

Like a group of navvies on a tea break the realpolitik of leaving the job half done has escaped them.

But a half-baked peace process is better than none in the lucrative world of international dialogue and mediation consultancy.

Last week saw the re-emergence of former Blair aide Jonathan Powell, another peace-building-junkie who has written extensively about our wee Troubles and his role in resolving them.

Powell is described in a preface to his book Great hatred, Little Room as the “midwife to the peace process”.

At least when Spike Milligan wrote his memoir Adolf Hitler: My Part In His Downfall, there was proper humour.

Powell was back in Northern Ireland – to borrow some misguided parlance from David Cameron – “to hug a hoodie”.

In fact he came to hug loads of hoodies involved in a body backed by the UDA, UVF and Red Hand Commando.

These organisations, claims Powell, were failed, ignored and left behind by the peace process.

In some ways he is right. For more than 20 years they have been allowed to carry on with their extensive paramilitary structures and criminal activities in full sight of the authorities and have been ignored.

As for being left behind or excluded by the mainstream process, thousands of pounds of public money has been channelled through to their representatives who, having failed to be elected, are funded as community workers.

They are so ignored that both of the mainstream unionist parties who serve in our administration feel free to frequently share platforms, walk in protest and initiate various unionist unity initiatives with them.

This latest peace process wheeze includes a loyalist paramilitary wish list that calls for their inclusion in any future talks process.

That they have no meaningful mandate other than their illegal muscle seems lost on Powell and David McNarry of Ukip who facilitated this process.

It’s a matter of fact that loyalist paramilitaries envy the lionisation of their republican counterparts but the green-eyed monster (or should than be the orange-eyed?) ignores the bloody obvious, that over the years the republican movement captured a popular mandate that can’t be ignored or dismissed.

Just why loyalist paramilitaries exist at all some 20 years after their ceasefires is perplexing.

It’s a basic premise of democracy that everyone has a right to set out his or her stall and present it to the electorate.

Both the PUP and formerly the UDP have done this and have been consistently consigned to the margins of Northern Ireland politics.

Would anyone seriously consider throwing a similar lifeline to the BNP to compensate for its lack of electoral appeal?

It’s to the credit of the mainstream unionist community in Northern Ireland that they have long since turned their backs on the fringes of loyalism.

It’s less to the credit of their public representatives that they continue to bestow credibility on these paramilitary leeches that are the scourge of the communities they live among.

Loyalist paramilitaries have been left behind but it’s the unionist community which has left them well and truly 


There is no role for these shadowy hardmen. Their time, like those who cling to the structures of the IRA, is over.

Again this is where Powell’s patronising naivety comes into play. He suggested legalising the IRA so it can become an old boys association.

Legalising the IRA would only serve to legitimise their actions.

And let’s face it – such a move would only make sense if loyalists were permitted to do likewise.

As the recent murders have proved allowing existing paramilitary structures, form and titles to exist even in peacetime creates not an old boys drinking club but a parallel order within local communities that will conflict at sometime with the legitimate forces of law and order.

Powell may be well meaning but perhaps his considerable talents would be better employed in finding a resolution to the middle east conflict where the calamitous and contagious fallout is in no small part due to the government he advised so closely.

Failing that he could do well to outreach to the marginalised communities of young Muslims and white working-class males within Great Britain, rather than hang out in Belfast with ageing hoodies where the smell of sulphur still lingers.