Protestant Parading, continued

Posted By: August 15, 2013

Newt Emerson. Irish News( Belfast). Thursday, August 15, 2013
HERE is a bizarre phenomenon. Policing in Northern Ireland has never been more
popular with nationalists, yet it has never pandered so openly to loyalists. After
last Friday’s rioting in Belfast, senior officers from the chief constable down were
quick to assert there had been no UVF orchestration. “It seemed to just happen,”
Assistant Chief Constable George Hamilton told the Stephen Nolan Show on Monday morning. “Undoubtedly there would have been members of paramilitary groups there
protesting but there’s no information that we have that suggests that they were sent
by the organisations or were there on behalf of the organisations. The problem that
we had on Friday night was that there was a complete lack of cohesion, leadership,
coordination.” That seems to suggest that a protest jointly organised by the UVF’s
political wing would have been fine if the UVF had marshalled it properly. Anyone
who witnessed Friday’s mass mobilisation of protesters from the UVF heartlands of
north and east Belfast would have been in no doubt as to what was being let off the
leash. To claim the inevitable result ‘just happened’ requires more proof than
having “no information” to the contrary. How was the PSNI able to state within a
matter of hours that no paramilitary group had even sent anyone to the protests, let
alone sent anyone to riot? Was a full criminal investigation, as warranted by the
seriousness of the violence, conducted between Friday night and Monday morning? Or
did the PSNI simply call one of the numbers it obtained on that weekend in Wales and
accept the word of the UVF, which let us not forget is an illegal organisation?

On Friday, as the rioting subsided, Martin McGuinness tweeted: “Make no mistake
about it; those responsible for tonight’s violence against the police are the
combined forces of the UVF & Orange Order in N Belfast.” This observation is hard to
take from Sinn Fein, the party whose president was never in the IRA. But just
because McGuinness engages in double standards does not mean he is mistaken. It
makes increasingly little sense in Belfast to speak of the Orange Order and loyalism
as separate groups. They are more of an Orange spectrum, with no clear bands
(despite all the bandsmen). What magical prism does the PSNI possess that allows it
to immediately see loyalist organisations as whiter than white?

Perhaps it is the same optical instrument the PSNI applied last month to accusations
of loyalist drug-dealing, when Detective Inspector Andy Dunlop said “there is no
obvious link in terms of intelligence or evidence at this time”. Whatever clever
qualifications can be made for terms like ‘obvious’, ‘on behalf of’ or ‘at this
time’, the PSNI is making statements on loyalism that by any normal interpretation
are completely implausible. The signal of untouchability this sends cannot be
unconnected to three years of mounting loyalist violence, the past year of which has
been effectively continuous. Yet nationalists are impressed as front-line officers
face the consequences, making the phenomenon even more bizarre than it seems, for
the impartial courage they admire in the ranks is only necessary due to the
humouring of loyalism from the top. Why is there so little nationalist outrage over
this disaster? A distinction can clearly be drawn between front-line and senior
officers. The Police Federation, the PSNI’s trade union, has been vocal and specific
in its warnings against loyalist appeasement over the past three years. However,
there seems remarkably little concern or awareness within nationalism that the PSNI
is splitting into management and front-line wings. There may be too much nationalist
glee at the moral collapse of unionism to pay attention, for now, to the details.
There may also be a sense that this pandering to loyalism is driven by hapless peace
processing rather than loyalist sympathy, so it is not ‘political policing’ in the
partisan sense. This must be helped by Sinn Fein’s monstering of the RUC, beside
which anything looks like progress, although the RUC put thousands of loyalists in
jail and never showed loyalism the sort of indulgence we are now seeing. The reason
the Castlederg IRA parade caused such unionist outrage was because it honoured
bombers. Bombs are a red-line issue for unionists, marking the point where peace has
definitively broken down. What line has to be crossed before nationalists realise
the policing of loyalism has broken down? Do lives have to be lost? Wherever the
line lies, appeasement on this scale will drive us over it soon enough.