British created the loyalist monsters
The PSNI is appealing for information on the brutal murder in Bangor, Co Down, of Mark Christie (36). The dead man, who had links with loyalist paramilitary drugs gangs, was hacked to death in a loyalist estate in the seaside town by a gang of around six men. The PSNI further say they are keeping an “open mind” about the killing, but it’s widely believed that the murder was carried out by former paramilitary colleagues who had ordered him to stay out of the estate in what’s believed to have been a row over drug territory. Christie last week escaped jail after appearing in a Belfast court on a charge of assault.
The entire sordid episode encapsulates quite starkly the Frankenstein’s monster that the British government and its various security agencies created down through those three bloody decades when they nurtured, armed and directed loyalist paramilitaries as part of the familiar ‘counter-gang’ strategy that they used in other colonial struggles of the 20th century.
Utterly incapable of conducting any sort of sustained campaign, the UDA, UVF and various spin-offs were sustained by shadowy intelligence figures from the RUC and British intelligence who used them when convenient to target their republican enemies or – much more frequently – innocent Catholics in a ruthless attempt to put pressure on republicans by spreading terror in the nationalist community. Clear runs were given to killer gangs, guns were supplied, security details handed over. But when the war between the IRA and the British was ended, the thuggish criminal demi-monde that the British had fed and encouraged was never going to be stood down by the giving of an order.
Working-class loyalist communities are drowning in a sea of drugs and criminality as former paramilitary enforcers continue to believe that they are beyond the reach of the law. And why shouldn’t they believe that? If the British state encouraged and facilitated them in the murder of innocent Catholics, the thinking goes, why should they get squeamish when those same loyalists’ energies are redirected towards the rather less serious crime of self-enrichment via drugs and racketeering?
The line between right and wrong is not just blurred in those parts of the North ruled by loyalist paramilitaries – it doesn’t exist. And given the age profile of those involved in recent loyalist shows of strength in North Belfast and elsewhere, the number of teenage paramilitaries who are carrying the torch for a new generation of loyalist paramilitaries is serious cause for concern.
What we are seeing unravelling on the streets is the legacy of a failed British policy of defeating republicans at any price. How to place a firewall between this generation of bloodthirsty thugs and the next generation of impressionable young Protestants who are today at school is a complex and challenging question which demands to be addressed. But in the meantime, perhaps the PSNI and the British government would spare us the mock horror the next time the knives are out and the blood flows.
Decommissioning double standards