Posted By: April 17, 2014

Newton Emerson. Irish News ( Belfast). Thursday, April 17, 2014
SO IT can be done. The PSNI has faced down loyalist rioting in Carrickfergus,
thought to have been orchestrated as a warning against arresting members of the
'bad' UDA.

The PSNI has been making arrests in Carrickfergus while investigating a riot in
Larne two weeks ago, also thought to have been orchestrated as a warning against
arresting members of the bad UDA.

The trouble in Carrickfergus broke out last Thursday evening, ironically just after
the Queen had hosted a reception in Windsor Castle to celebrate all that is great
about Northern Ireland. Fifty masked men engaged in three hours of serious disorder,
reportedly after a gun was found during a police search of a senior UDA man's

The PSNI responded robustly to this challenge to its authority, warning that further
trouble was planned for the following night then swamping the area to prevent it.
Assistant chief constable Will Kerr identified the south east antrim UDA as
responsible and warned police will "disabuse" it of any notion it is "in control".
This does not appear to be any empty threat. Investigations into the Larne rioting
have continued, with 16 arrests, 40 properties searched and 800 items seized as of
the end of last week. "There will be consequences" for the Carrickfergus rioting as
well, Kerr added.

The line being drawn in Carrickfergus suggests a firm reversal of the appeasement
policy that saw the PSNI apologise to "community representatives and others" for
provoking UVF riots in the town three years ago. If so, it is a welcome development
but it raises the question of why an equally robust approach cannot be taken towards
the bad UVF in east Belfast. Where are the arrests, searches and seizures targeting
loyalist ring-leaders after three years of rioting there?

Far too many damaging conspiracy theories have filled the void left by that
lingering question. However, the simplest and likeliest explanation remains the one
given, albeit obliquely, by the PSNI. Loyalism in east Belfast is believed by senior
officers to be too big and dangerous to tackle head on. This is why chief constable
Matt Baggott repeats a mantra about the "right to life" and congratulated the PSNI
for getting through the year of the flag protests without any fatalities. Other
police statements about "public support" for loyalists and the need for policing to
have "community consent” are similarly code for not provoking deadly violence.
Despite the fashionable language and arcane backroom dealing there is no particular
principle at work in the appeasement of the bad UVF. It is merely a problem of
scale. The PSNI has made a calculation of risk versus resources and decided it
cannot take the Carrickfergus approach in east Belfast.

Once stated, this looks obvious but the point is that it is never openly stated.

The PSNI is not telling the Policing Board or the Stormont executive to provide it
with the resources to put the bad UVF out of business. Instead, it is making excuses
for itself that feed further official appeasement, such as the executive's 'social
investment fund' for loyalist-nominated projects or the Policing Board's
acquiescence to UVF-linked members of local policing partnerships.

If the PSNI would admit to what is going on in east Belfast there would be less
paranoia and just as importantly there could be a proper assessment of the
variables. How much more dangerous is delinquent loyalism in east Belfast than in
south east Antrim?

Last week's trouble in Carrickfergus was modest but the 2011 rioting was widespread,
extraordinarily violent and organised almost immediately.

Carrickfergus also witnessed larger and more disruptive flag protests than east
Belfast, with more loyalist input, at least initially. Yet existing resources,
deployed promptly and wisely, appear to have the brigadiers in retreat.

On the other side of the equation, is the risk of tackling loyalism being offset
against the risk of not tackling it? Over the past year the UVF in east Belfast has
been linked to two attempted murders and more than a dozen drug-related deaths. The
human rights act places the right to life secondary to "quelling a riot" because it
understands that all rights ultimately rest on the rule of law.

We should have a new chief constable by October. even if he or she does not admit to
making a loyalist calculation, they may reach a different answer.

That just leaves the small matter of the 'good' UDA and UVF, who are apparently
still among the things that are great about Northern Ireland. newton@irishnews.com