Tough Talk By Belfast Columnist

Posted By: December 02, 2013

Tom Kelly. Irish News ( Belfast) Monday,December 2, 2013
WATCHING fringe loyalists and dissident republicans hold Belfast to ransom in their respective ways, one can’t help but think they are mirror images of each other. Both are parasitical, both are unrepresentative, both are peppered with lunatic fascists and both are intent on wrecking the economy.

The corner-boy spokesman leading the loyalist fringe is nothing more than a would-be rabble-rousing zealot who is as about as useful to democracy as myxomatosis is to rabbits. It’s so ironic to see loyalists complaining against political policing when they were in cahoots together for much of the Troubles.

What is most worrying about these fringe loyalists, apart from their peroxide-addicted flag-clad femmes fatales, is the open and very obvious sinister influence of paramilitarism in the organising of these protests.

The UVF is clearly orchestrating loyalist unease for political purposes and the chief constable is living in a cocooned Narnia up at Knock hQ if he expects us to believe that there is no UVF involvement.

The DUP don’t believe him, the Police Federation don’t believe him and those unionist communities unfortunate enough to live under the cosh of the UVF certainly don’t believe him.

When it comes to assessing levels of loyalist paramilitary activity on our streets, the official PSNI line is about as credible as Gerry Adams’s claims that he was never in the IRA.

The chief constable seems a decent sort of chap, perfect for over-lording a community policing strategy in the Shires but clearly somewhat out of his depth in Northern Ireland. He is a man who one day tells us not to overstate the dissident threat and then is caught off-guard by those same dissidents; another day he says he has all the resources he needs but the next complains about the burden of investigating unsolved crimes – more remarkable when, worldwide, the police are creating mechanisms to solve historical crimes. Loyalists are right about political policing because we appear to have a senior command structure too overly concerned with political considerations rather than operational policing requirements or creating public confidence in the police to do the right thing.

In fairness though, when one sees what is expected of rank-and-file police officers who are ordered to follow a policy of containment resulting in literally hundreds of injured officers, the police are not the bad guys here. They are simply the fall guys.

With elections imminent, the PUP – the UVF’s apologists-in-chief – are intent on creaming off the loyalist discontent for electoral gain.

The rise of dissident republican activity is like a super Christmas present come early for Billy hutchinson and his mates. The PUP needs a resurgent republican threat to shore up their self-proclaimed loyalist protector role.

Watching the UVF up close is like watching The Sopranos without the glamour or the intelligent dialogue. The flag protest anniversary is a welcome boost for the UVF as it is able to fill its ranks with a rag-tail element of the loyalist lunatic fringe.

Willie Frazer – the political equivalent of a loyalist martini, any time, any place, anywhere for an audience – is a regular star turn, as is the ubiquitous baby-faced Bangor-based Jamie Bryson. One is surprised Bryson is not more hunched with the cross he carries on behalf of the loyalist community.

And of course, there’s the odd forlorn lost soul from the english far right BNP who just can’t stay away from a good old-fashioned sectarian barnstorming. The UVF is forlorn in its aspiration because I suspect that the smarter TUV may benefit from this entire loyalist-inspired angst.

While we can live with a few more thorns in the side of the political process if they receive a proper democratic mandate, what we can’t live with is a soft politically-correct approach to the threat from dissident republicans.

We know they did not lick their ideology from the ground and we also know that their attitude to democratic will is not a high priority.

Sinn Fein spokespeople are rightly quick to condemn dissident actions but are slow to support the justice meted out to them by the police and courts system. This is not a sustainable position. Sinn Fein need to have the same political fortitude and judicial resolve against former comrades as was displayed by the Cosgrave and De Valera administrations in dealing with the recalcitrant elements of militant republicans post-Treaty. Me thinks it’s time for some tough love all round.