Loyalist feud exposes Orange state
BY LAURA FRIEL
For many northern nationalists, the photograph of a uniformed RUC officer standing to attention and saluting the coffin of loyalist paramilitary Bobby Mahood as the funeral cortege passed along the Shankill Road last month said it all.
Of course, everyone is entitled to show respect for the dead and offer comfort to the bereaved, but many of us doubted this lay at the heart of the gesture. After all, respect for the dead had never informed RUC policy in the past. Until fairly recently, riot clad RUC officers regularly jostled and routinely batoned mourners attending the funeral of a republican.
Indeed, the decision to deploy the British army within the Shankill and other loyalist areas affected by the UVF and UDA feud has been seen by nationalists as tacit recognition that as a counter insurgency force against nationalist aspirations, the RUC has never seen its role as confronting loyalist violence.
d then there were the Apprentice Boys, led by their governor Alistair Simpson, providing a guard of honour at what was generally regarded as the funeral of a loyalist paramilitary. Bobby Mahood was described as a ``long standing and committed member of the Apprentice Boys''.
A few days later and the Loyal Orders' tolerance towards sectarian violence was further confirmed when members of the Orange Order laid wreaths at a mural dedicated to UVF killer Brian Robinson during a paramilitary commemoration on the Shankill. Robinson was shot dead by the British army in 1989 as he made his escape after killing a Catholic in Ardoyne.
Patrick McKenna was shot 11 times by the UVF as he walked a short distance from his home in Farringdon Court in North Belfast. Around 10am, in a street crowded with shoppers, two masked gunmen opened fire from a motorcycle at close range. Patrick had survived an earlier attack when a booby-trapped card sent by loyalists blew up in his face. His family also complained of RUC harassment.
County Grand Master, Dawson Bailie, said that the local lodge's decision to take part in the UVF commemoration ``would not be a problem.'' ``The Orange Order is a very broad church and it's not my responsibility to say to people they can't be members of various organisations,'' said Bailie.
But the Loyal Orders can't have it both ways. When hundreds of leaked intelligence files being used by the loyalist paramilitary group, the Orange Volunteers, were discovered at Stoneyford Orange Hall, the Order washed its hands of all responsibility. They were ``astonished''. Any Orangeman involved in paramilitary activity would be expelled, the Order had declared.
In July 1997 a 16-year-old Catholic school boy was abducted and beaten to death on the outskirts of Clough, County Down. James Morgan's mutilated body was discovered in a lime pit used by local farmers to dispose of dead farm livestock. An Orangeman, Norman Coopey was subsequently convicted of murder. Despite intense media pressure, the Orange Order refused to expel Coopey from their ranks.
Last week, in a space of a few days, Northern nationalists witnessed elements of Orangeism parading their allegiances. As the loyalist feud plunged them into crisis, the niceties of distance and distinction were momentarily forgotten.
On Monday evening, it was the turn of Belfast's unionist politicians to close ranks. In Belfast City Hall, unionist councillors rallied to protect UDP Deputy Mayor Frank McCoubrey from censure after he had shared a platform with UDA killers Johnny Adair and Micheal Stone during an armed loyalist paramilitary show of strength which had erupted into violence.
Addressing the monthly meeting, Ulster Unionist Councillor Jim Rodgers said he was disappointed by the motion tabled by Alliance's David Alderdice which ``deplored'' McCoubrey's presence at the rally.
Sinn Féin's accusation that Frank McCoubrey had failed to represent all of the people of Belfast and had brought the position of Deputy Mayor into disrepute was also rejected by unionists.
``I don't think this will do any good for this council or for the city of Belfast and certainly wouldn't be welcomed by the people of the Shankill,'' said Rodgers. Unionist councillors, including two members of the PUP, closed ranks in support of the UDP man and the motion was defeated.