Belfast Telegraph

Terror group moving in the right direction

Editor's Viewpoint

Some people may be shocked by the announcement that the Red Hand Commando has applied to the Home Office to be taken off the list of proscribed organisations.

The immediate reaction from some might be that this is unthinkable, but it is something that should be given consideration.

The Red Hand Commando, like other terrorist groups, has a dark and murderous past, and there are still a great number of people who remember its many atrocities.

This group was among the most thuggish in the broad ranks of loyalism.

However, it is wrong to identify it with the majority in the loyalist community in the recent past.

Organisations such as the Red Hand Commando grew out of the grassroots defence groups that emerged in loyalist areas at the beginning of the Troubles.

These organisations had huge influence, but the situation moved on and much has happened since Gusty Spence announced a loyalist ceasefire 23 years ago on behalf of the Combined Loyalist Military Command.

People may ask, 'What loyalist ceasefire?' and some critics argue that if the Red Hand Commando is really repentant about its lurid past, it should take down its tent and steal away into oblivion.

This is an obvious argument from people who look for clear-cut solutions to hugely complex problems arising from the Troubles.

In reality, the situation is never as simple as that and there is a need for a deeper awareness, among the middle-classes and others, of the major problems that persist in loyalist areas, including the under-achievement of young and older Protestant males.

The latest move by the Red Hand Commando might be given a very cautious welcome, but with certain strong caveats.

The group's motives need to be closely examined and its movements kept under strict scrutiny.

The outcome of the bid to be legalised will be watched by other loyalist groups, and there is still an appalling level of basic criminality within loyalist ranks.

Overall, the Red Hand Commando's initiative might be given a cautious welcome as a step in the right direction, but we cannot and must never forget this group's murderous history lest we become victims of a clever ruse to gain a spurious respectability despite the appalling darkness of the past.

Belfast Telegraph

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