Time to cut links with 'malign puppet'

UNIONIST LEADERS have been widely criticised following loyalist rioting in September. PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde has held the Orange Order "substantially responsible" for the trouble. Such criticism is an understatement of fact.

It's hard not to conclude that unionist leaders not only foresaw violence and choose not to stop it, but also connived in its perpetration. The two unionist parties'close structural and programmatic links with the Orange Order, and the Order's well-documented association with paramilitaries, would suggest as much.

This symbiotic relationship was demonstrated most publicly when LVF leader Billy Wright and other paramilitaries looked on as Paisley and Trimble, adorning Orange sashes, marched hand-in-hand down the Garvaghy Road in 1996. Trimble of course had a private talk with the LVF leader on this occasion, the topic of which no one outside that sectarian caucus will know.

The broad, bigoted tent of the Orange Order currently protecting mainstream unionist politicians from a torrential downpour of real criticism needs to be pulled up and its occupants exposed. From listening to unionist statements during the weeks after the riots it's hard not to conclude that unionist leaders used the Order's Whiterock parade to send a message to the British administration; that it is their way or no way.

It may also have been a strategic attempt to derail or stall the IRA's decommissioning timetable, hence stalling the resurrection of the power-sharing executive. Either way the strategy was a sign of desperation, as too were the claims that followed.

Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empy said the violence was to be attributed to "the government's concessions to republicans" and to "huge levels of economic inequality" suffered by loyalists. His comments were echoed by DUP leader Ian Paisley who also said loyalists had seen the IRA achieve results by violence so they were having a go.

Recent government statistics reported in last month's Irish Democrat pointed to a wide range of social indicators showing Catholics and Irish nationalists suffering levels of structural inequality substantially unchanged since 1968.

Again unionist leaders misrepresent the facts, articulating the pathological self-delusion of working class unionists that they are persecuted and unequal, oppressed and marginalised by the state and the IRA. In doing so they offer a de facto justification for violence, which encourages it further. IRA concessions referred to by unionists are in actual fact the codified rights found in any western civil society, enshrined in human rights and equality legislation under the Good Friday agreement: the right to live free from sectarian and racial harassment; fair representation for elected representatives (under the D'Hondt power-sharing system); the right to live under a democratically accountable and representative policing service, are but examples.

But most troublesome for unionists is the prospect of a future referendum on the constitutional position of Britain's last colony and a realisation that the republican position has time on its side.

In fighting the democratic tide threatening to submerge them, armed unionist paramilitaries have perpetrated approximately 200 pipe-, blast-, petrol- and paint-bomb attacks against Catholic homes, churches, schools and businesses over the last three months. A 15 year-old Catholic boy has been stabbed to death and another Catholic man critically injured by loyalists in north Belfast during the same period.

Peter Hain's 'specification'of the UVF ceasefire will do little to stop this, for as one loyalist source told the Daily Ireland newspaper, not many UVF men vote for its political representatives in the PUP anyway. It seems the best way to stop a malign puppet doing malign things is to cut its strings, not condemn its actions.

If the Independent Monitoring Commission wanted to gain any credibility it would extend its remit and investigate this murderous web spun by 'symbiotic' unionism, in the aftermath of recent violence. Of course, this won't happen. The question now is will secretary of state Peter Hain face up to the counter-insurgency beast his predecessors armed and directed, or will he allow the rest of us to remain trapped in the web?

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This document was last modified by David Granville on 2005-11-29 12:55:00.
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