IMC will make loyalists reap what they’ve sown
The UVF murder of Bobby Moffett is back to haunt them, says Brian Rowan
The Independent Monitoring Commission might be about to throw a paramilitary cat among the political pigeons.
That could be the scattering impact of a special report into the UVF killing of Bobby Moffett — a public execution on the Shankill Road in May to demonstrate who is in control.
Moffett was big enough to stand on the toes of paramilitary leaders; they weren’t big enough to face him other than with guns.
Weapons — hidden and held back from the decommissioning process — were used to settle personal scores.
Moffett was part of that paramilitary underworld: a one-time Red Hand Commando prisoner, who wasn’t afraid of the UVF.
But inside that organisation, there were those who were afraid of him; that if they didn’t get to him first, he might get to them.
That is why he was killed — and on a busy Friday lunchtime, in a place where everyone could see.
The shooting prompted the political resignation of Stormont MLA Dawn Purvis, who stepped down as leader of the UVF-linked PUP and left the party.
Since then there has been a “quiet initiative” in the background aimed at trying to save political loyalism, but it may be too late.
A lot will depend on what the IMC has to say. If it confirms the Moffett shooting was sanctioned, then the UVF’s problem will reach out into the political and peace processes. No one is suggesting there was a kind of paramilitary ‘board meeting’ before the killing, but the most senior leaders of this group live on the Shankill.
How much of the fine detail were they aware of? And how much do they know now about when the shooting was ordered, who ordered it, who carried it out, where the guns came from and where they are now?
The answers to those questions will be the important reading in this ‘ad hoc’ IMC assessment.
The UVF will want to limit the damage — send out a story that its leaders knew — and know — nothing. But that is not going to wash.
And if the IMC points to sanction at a leadership level, then there is a decision to be made by the Secretary of State, Owen Paterson.
He will have to decide whether to ‘specify’ the UVF — meaning the Government no longer recognises its ceasefire.
According to well-placed loyalist sources, the UVF is still recruiting. Its leadership — the so-called ‘brigade command’ — still meets and it is still out there in a paramilitary structure. So any look at the UVF can’t be about the Moffett shooting only; there is all that is happening in a wider frame.
In the paramilitary world little happens without the nod and approval of leaderships.
There has been no disowning of the gunmen, no statement from the UVF leadership to distance itself from those who pulled the trigger.
Bobby Moffett was too big a problem for the UVF — big enough to embarrass its leaders and challenge their dominance of communities.
But now that organisation has a bigger problem. The spotlight of the IMC is pointed in its direction.
The report, when completed, will raise challenges for the loyalist organisation and the political and peace processes.
“When the UVF killed Bobby Moffett, the PUP died,” one source commented.
Dawn Purvis was no longer willing to answer for those who still live in dark corners; no longer prepared to be part of a party put in too many difficult places by the actions of a paramilitary organisation that claimed to have assumed a ‘civilianised role’.
The ‘quiet initiative’ is not going to repair the damage that has been done.