Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Loyalist group is getting left behind by a peace process that won't wait up

Security expert Brian Rowan argues that the UVF needs to catch up with Ulster's political pacesetters

Is the UVF lost in this new place and in its new politics - in the Northern Ireland after the "war"? It seems that might just be the case. Are there people who can't leave their rank and their paramilitary roles behind?

Do they feel inferior - less important - in the peace?

It certainly sounds like it.

Look at what is beginning to happen on the republican side - Bobby Storey, linked to this, that and the other in the IRA's fight - now in a senior Sinn Fein role in Belfast.

It is part of the transition.

Where is his UVF equivalent?

Distancing is not a deliberate tactic - but a natural development in a new situation.

The UVF needs to step forward into political and community roles - if that is what the organisation wants.

It cannot expect others to wait and move at its pace - a pace much slower than that of the IRA.

To wait is to be left behind.

In the past we have watched loyalism destroy credible political leaderships.

The UDA did it with Gary McMichael and Davy Adams when it elevated John White.

David Ervine's main battles were in his own community - with those who could not or did not want to see a way forward.

What Dawn Purvis is now hearing in the criticism of the Progressive Unionist Party is an extension - the next act in all of that.

She should not close her ears to it, but she should keep it in perspective.

She does not need to slow down - the UVF needs to catch up.

Can it order its army of volunteers away?

Is the real authority at a level below the top leadership?

Those are very relevant questions in today's situation.

The answer to the first is, probably no - and the answer to the second is, probably yes.

So, the debates about relationships may well be a distraction.

The talk in the background is that the UVF has a drugs problem in east Belfast - and that drugs recently found on the Shankill are also linked to that organisation.

Is this not the real problem - what they should be talking about?

Of course it is.

It is the UVF - or some within it - who are creating the distance between that organisation and a peace and a political process that is moving on, and that won't wait for anyone.

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