Brits armed loyalist beast
Raids in the Shankill area of Belfast on Wednesday 23 and Thursday 24 August have revealed that both the UDA and the UVF are in possession of British-supplied weaponry, some of it brand new, and that both groups appear to be actively rearming themselves in preparation for a return to conflict, despite claims by their respective spokesmen that both are still officially committed to the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.
On Wednesday, weapons belonging to the UVF were found in two cars when the RUC arrested six men in the Malvern Street area of the Shankill. The following day, UDA guns and explosives were taken from a house at Upper Glenfarne Street.
The emergence of these weapons is particularly telling since, according to The Sunday Business Post, a former member of British military intelligence, currently facing undisclosed charges under the Official Secrets Act has indicated that a number of them, and those brandished by UDA men during the recent `cultural festival' on the Shankill Road, were imported from South Africa in 1988 and provided to the UDA by British intelligence for use against republicans. A light machine-gun which was also displayed has also been identified as a British Army weapon, originally believed to have been obtained by the UDA after RUC officers facilitated a raid on Palace Barracks, Hollywood, in August 1987.
The article alleges, however, that the acquisition of this particular weapon was not part of a robbery at all but that the `raid' was in fact part of an ``arranged handover of weapons to loyalists by British intelligence''. It further alleges that another of the guns handed over at the time was subsequently used to assassinate solicitor Pat Finucane.
Peter Mandelson may take some comfort in having flexed his political and legal muscles in order to reincarcerate Johnny Adair, but the recovery of these weapons and the revelations which have accompanied them have simply served to pull the lid still further off the collusion can of worms and the use made of the Shankill UDA by British Intelligence which, as Ed Moloney pointed out in the Sunday Tribune this week, ``was working `C' Company like the accelerator pedal in a deadly armoured car'' via the agent Brian Nelson.
The horror and disgust with which the Secretary of State, the British authorities and their media now view Adair was merely dainty distaste whilst he was orchestrating attacks on Catholic areas (and whilst the fiction of nationalist attacks on Protestant homes, no matter how ridiculous, could be maintained). Only when British military intelligence finally lost control of him - due to his greed and monumentally inflated ego - and he started creating havoc amongst his ``own'' was he was comprehensively disowned by his masters and locked up.
Overnight, Adair has been transformed from the standard issue hard-man lovable-rogue stereotype as portrayed in the British tabloid press (which clamoured to give him acres of indulgent press coverage) into a vile, murderous, drug-dealing, psychopathic monster - as if he wasn t always - who sprang into existence only on his release from jail and who has had nothing whatsoever to do with the activities of the British state in the Six Counties for a very long time.
This metamorphosis, of course, is a familiar one. The Orange Order underwent a similar process of state rejection during Drumcree, after its supporters turned their wrath on British forces rather than confine themselves to Catholics in the accepted fashion. But all of it, from unionism and the Orange Order right down to loyalism, the cult of Johnny Adair, and the monster himself, are manifestations of British rule in Ireland. Ultimately, the moral responsibility for all loyalism's crimes lies with the British state which sanctioned them and which, at the same time, ignored the gangsterism which has always accompanied it. No amount of manufactured anger of the part of the Secretary of State can disguise that.