Belfast Telegraph

Why we like to pretend killers have gone away

By Lindy McDowell

The UVF gunning-down of one of its own in broad daylight on a busy weekday afternoon on a Shankill Road crowded with shoppers and passers-by, may be shocking.

But, given the unrelenting paramilitary grip of terror on working class areas in this place, it can hardly be described as surprising.

There is a big, dirty secret that we try to keep in Northern Ireland. That after “the process” everything here changed, changed utterly. That the terror gangs took themselves off. And peace reigned. That paramilitary violence, threat, extortion and gangsterism was consigned to the past.

As if ...

Granted, things changed a bit. The paramilitary leaderships on all sides, keen to cash in on the so-called peace dividend that was to represent their pension plan, did put a lid on the worst of their violence. But just because a paramilitary swaps baseball bats for golf clubs doesn’t mean it’s a whole new ball game.

These boys talked an impressive process. There was some decommissioning. Of a limited and vague variety. And there was much guff about standing aside, standing down and winding up.

But their day being over, finished, done with for good, as that nice Mr Clinton put it some years back? The evidence to the contrary on that one doesn’t just include the bloodstains on the pavement at the corner of Conway Street.

Or the cellophaned bunches of flowers now stacked along street railings like defiant sentinels in rigid tribute to Bobby Moffett.

It also includes the watching eyes. The open campaign of intimidation aimed at keeping people from speaking out against those who carried out the killing.

The UVF, like the UDA and the LVF (and the PIRA and the dissidents) continue to run their areas with an iron fist. Working class people who live under their cosh know exactly who runs the show in their part of town.

The telling thing, the sickening thing, is that the government happily colludes with this by maintaining the pretence that the terror gangs have somehow been safely dispatched into history. People who live in the nicer, leafier areas don‘t need to be unsettled by the truth, do they?

The truth is that, for some time now, the UVF leadership has been having difficulty reining in certain factions. The UDA is not having all its sorrows to seek either.

The recent release into the mix of Andre Shoukri, the strutting bully boy formerly known as the Bookie’s Brigadier, does not exactly augur well for ongoing harmony there.

The Provos still command their fiefdoms too.

As well as evidence of their un-decommissioned guns mysteriously resurfacing of late, there’s also indication of Provie collusion with dissidents. The same dissidents who are now firing on all mortar cylinders

The IMC report conclusion that while these dissidents are indeed dangerous they do not command widespread support or have similar resources to the PIRA in terms of manpower, money, organisation and expertise is hardly a comfort in the circumstances.

Lack of popular support, political representation, skills or funding has never been a drawback where any of our local killing machines has been concerned.

It says something that post “decommissioning” they all remain as powerful, as lethal and as threatening as ever. “Internal housekeeping” is how the government used to gloss over the likes of the UVF killing of Bobby Moffett.

Sweep it under the carpet. Hope the bloodstains don’t seep too far into public view.

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