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Let's not draw a veil over the ugly face of thuggery


Peter Morrison

Viewed from afar, what onlookers can't understand about our recent spate of rioting is that surely this was all supposed to have been sorted?

We have peace now in Northern Ireland - right? People have won prizes for it. Politicians (in Belfast, Dublin, Westminster and Washington) are never done claiming responsibility for having 'delivered' it.

Viewed from afar it's all a bit baffling then.

For me, currently also viewing it from afar, it's all just a bit close to home. I have some experience of the UVF gang blamed for orchestrating this latest ugly violence.

It was two major players from this hoodlum grouping who attacked my husband a couple of Christmases ago at the Continental market, in the grounds of the City Hall.

As one was kicking Jim in the head he was expressing his displeasure at Sunday World coverage of his UVF boss. (Whatever happened to an old-fashioned Letter to the Editor?)

Despite there being CCTV footage of the attack, the men couldn't clearly be identified and, despite it having happened in the afternoon with hundreds of people milling around, there were no witnesses.

So there was no subsequent prosecution.

I accept the police need solid evidence before they can bring a case. And, as we all know, in the great scheme of paramilitary violence it could have been a whole lot worse. Still, it makes you ponder how such incidents must add to the arrogance of these thugs who view themselves as powerful untouchables.

And how much, I wonder as I read coverage of the recent riots, does the raddled logic and language of the authorities here fuel the inflated sense of paramilitary invincibility?

The yob who leads the east Belfast gang is routinely referred to in reports as a 'loose cannon' - a description which seems to imply that the rest of that terror organisation is composed of fully battened-down neutered artillery. Yet this is the same UVF which not so long ago carried out the gruesome murder of Bobby Moffett.

Then there is that statement from a top cop pointing the finger of blame: "Their (the UVF's) hands are upon this, whether by direction, by omission or commission."

Direction and commission I get. It's the 'omission' bit I wonder about.

Is he saying the UVF leadership is to blame for not reining their boys in?

And does this not actually suggest a PSNI ceding to the UVF responsibility for (and there is no other word) policing their own henchmen?

I want to stress here that I have nothing but total respect and admiration for the police officers who deal with riots on the ground: those who literally stand in the middle and take it from both sides.

But like a lot of other people I'd prefer to see PSNI bosses issue less statements, more arrest warrants.

If they believe the UVF responsible why not lift the entire leadership?

Meanwhile, we have politicians one day tut-tutting about paramilitary violence and then meeting them the next. What sort of message does that send to young people sucked into the rioting? Kids who weren't even born when the Agreement was signed.

The thug in east Belfast is just that. An ugly gangster thug - out to make money from other people's misery.

But, in words and gestures, the authorities who run this place are in danger of Botoxing the face of such paramilitary gangs - feeding their sense of importance, making them look more attractive to the young. When underneath we all know - they're just ugly.

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