The UVF/UDA may think of themselves as benevolent Peaky Blinder, but they are nothing of the sort

Posted By: August 26, 2019


Tom Kelly. Irish News. Belfast. August 26, 2019

“Empty vessels make the most sound” or,  so goes the proverb. When it comes to some self-appointed non-elected speakers on behalf of already well-represented communities in Northern Ireland this proverb comes to mind. It applies to those on both sides of the divide. They are a disparate group of failed electoral candidates, community activists, and wannabe politicians looking for a platform without responsibility.

In the past week, the media platforms were dominated by fringe loyalist voices. After years of listening to such voices, this writer is still at a loss as to whom they represent.

These loyalist spokespeople claim to be facilitating ‘transition’ within their communities. The fact is, the loyalist paramilitaries have been taking the proverbial out of the transitioning process for twenty years.

Having spoken to residents in east Belfast and in parts of Bangor, it is clear the paramilitaries in these areas are active in all sorts of criminality. The police have confirmed that. The dogs in the streets know it. To put it mildly, they are up to their oxters [armpits] in illegality.

And the notion that there is good and bad UDA/UVF is nonsense. Two decades beyond a ceasefire and these illegal organizations should not even exist, let alone run organized crime rackets.

These so-called ‘community’ spokespeople bemoan the success of Sinn Féin but lack the ability of that party to garner support from within their own community. That should be message enough for them.

But no, they come on to the media moaning, groaning and shouting with severe bouts of most oppressed people syndrome.

If there are people within loyalist communities, who are marginalized, it is those who have to live under the cosh [bludgeon] and fear of having armed thugs rule the roost on their very streets.

So, let’s not shed a tear for distressed, most oppressed, fringe loyalists. Let’s help free the greater majority of people living in these communities who desire jobs and opportunities for their children.

Working with locals, the police need to root out the paramilitary leeches who carry out brutal reprisals against their colleagues and who peddle death to kids by pushing drugs on to the streets of Belfast.

Some mainstream Unionists need to end the coziness with loyalist paramilitaries, which sends confusing messages to local communities about the acceptability and bestows unwarranted credibility on the leaders of these organizations.

The UVF/UDA may like to think of themselves as some kind of benign Sopranos or benevolent Peaky Blinders, but they are nothing of the sort. They are simply gangsters, hoods and corner boys whose lavish lifestyles are built on sucking the lifeblood and hope from the communities they purport to serve. These words don’t demonize them—their actions do that.

All that said, there are some very good people working amongst loyalist communities trying to improve lives, albeit at a snail’s pace. But as could be witnessed during the bonfire stand-off, some fringe loyalists tried to marginalize even those with a mandate, like Councilor John Kyle.

Of course, from time to time these interlocutors for what passes for paramilitary thinking remind us through the media about the potential or possible threat from a great loyalist awakening and the consequences of what would follow that. That ship has sailed.

The reality is that Sinn Féin has moved its constituency towards a more normalized society. They have taken their volunteers and turned them into an old boys brigade. While their IRA commemorations are at times distasteful, they are also about memorializing the conflict.

The UVF and UDA leaderships have no interest in moving on. Over the years they have become more wedded to the half -crown[former British coin] than the crown. And it’s a half-crown grabbed by all means, fair and foul. They have failed at the ballot box and now fear ordinariness. But that day has arrived.