Belfast Telegraph

Too many young loyalists don’t care about the future as long as they can get drunk at weekends

UDA chief attacks band parade thuggery

By Brian Rowan

UDA ‘brigadier’ Jackie McDonald has launched an astonishing attack on aspects of loyalism — slamming drunken band members who fight among themselves.

The article, written for the magazine The Loyalist, will be seen as a kickback against those who think McDonald has reached out too far in the peace process.

He also hits out at young loyalists who he says don’t care about their future as long as they can get drunk and take drugs.

Under internal pressure, McDonald recently pulled out of a City Hall event. He was forced to do so by other UDA bosses angry that Sinn Fein Lord Mayor Niall O Donnghaile had replaced royal portraits in his parlour.

And now, the loyalist leader is responding to criticism from inside a bands forum.

He begins his article by writing: “The word loyalist is usually followed by paramilitary, or thug, drug dealer, parade or violence.

“Those are not my words but we are all familiar with them. When was the last time anyone heard of a loyalist MLA, a loyalist councillor or a loyalist MP?

“What we need is loyalism and loyalists with integrity and credibility, people who can represent our working class communities and speak on our behalf.

“Surely working class Protestants deserve to have some input into what happens in the future here. We have earned it with blood, sweat and tears.”

But McDonald — part of the UDA leadership since the late 1980s — does not hide from what is wrong within the loyalist communities, adding: “I want better education for our children, jobs for them when they leave school and ambition to be the best they can be. Unfortunately I know too many young loyalists who don’t care about themselves or the future as long as they can get drunk at the weekend and/or lose themselves in drugs.”

“We need to change their lifestyle and how they look at life,” says McDonald.

Then, he tackles the controversial bands issue head on:

“I admire some of our bands for their discipline and teaching many of our young people how to behave. I’m proud of the way these bands and their members demonstrate true loyalism.”

But he accepts this is only part of the story. “It breaks my heart when I see drunken band members fight with rival bands at band parades when there’s not a Catholic within two miles of the parade,” he writes. “They board a coach with their carry out and by the time they reach their destination they are their own private army ready to fight with the first one that looks sideways at them. True loyalism is better than that.”

And he addresses the image problem. “I have seen enough gangsters and criminals drag the good name of loyalism through the mud under one paramilitary flag or another, disgracing the memory of those who paid the ultimate price or served long terms in prison.”

The UDA was a killing organisation and McDonald remains part of today’s ‘inner council’ leadership. He writes about the past, and where he stands today in terms of building relationships with Dublin and the republican community.

“I did what I did in the past because circumstances demanded it; I’m doing what I do now because I believe in it, to save lives, to give our young people the freedom of choice and a better future,” he says.

Belfast Telegraph

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