Transparent Reminders
Transparent Reminders

By Danny Morrison

The two teenagers, Gavin and Michael, stood talking at the road junction on a late Sunday night in July, near the entrance to a GAA club. Gavin, a tall, handsome lad of eighteen, a Man United supporter, had just finished high school and was looking forward to his A-Level results. Michael noticed a blue Vauxhall Nova driving towards them. The rear window behind the driver's seat was rolled down and suddenly shots rang out. Gavin fell to the ground and Michael was shot in the foot as he tried to scale a fence.

The unionist gunmen laughed as they drove away, believing they had shot two Catholic kids. Gavin's father, Michael Brett, was called to the scene of the shooting, not far from his home, and tried desperately, but in vain, to save the life of his son whom he later described as ``my mate, my chum.'' Catholics and Protestants attended the funeral of Gavin Brett at the Church of the Holy Evangelists. The Reverend Nigel Baylor addressing the congregation said:

``These men who murdered Gavin were Protestants, loyalists and they killed one of their own, thinking that he was a Roman Catholic... They have done nothing but bring shame on the name of Protestantism. They represent the evil wasteful past which is dead and useless to us all.''

This shooting happened just two years ago.

The Red Hand Defenders - that is the UDA/UFF - claimed responsibility. No one was ever charged. The guns were never seized. They have yet to be `put beyond use'. The UDA/UFF and UVF are still active, are still engaged in violence and gunrunning and refuse to decommission. Those organisations sit on the Loyalist Commission, an umbrella group that includes Protestant church leaders and politicians, including leading Ulster Unionist David McNarry.

Last week the UDA threatened two of its former allies, David Adams and Gary McMichael, who are pro-Agreement. When the Commission tried to intervene the UDA told it to mind its own business - this was an internal matter. Did Mr McNarry resign from the Commission, or suspend his membership even temporarily, as some sort of leverage?

Sure didn't.

Last Tuesday General de Chastelain announced that the IRA had carried out a third act of decommissioning in significantly larger numbers than on the two previous occasions.

An hour later David Trimble reneged on a deal he had entered into with Gerry Adams. It didn't matter that the IRA had put beyond use a record large number of weapons. The unionist community, Trimble said, was not satisfied and had to see or hear for itself the exact details of all the weapons and explosives that the IRA had destroyed.

Frustrating though it is, we need to keep challenging unionist hypocrisy and double standards, though in the mean time we have to live with the unionist parties' equivocal attitudes to loyalist paramilitarism. One can expect nothing from the DUP, with its history of jointly organising the 1977 strike with the UDA, to marching up mountains in the dead of night waving gun licences and barking at the moon, or the not-so-Big Man in his wee red beret taking military salutes in the Ulster Hall.

Last Tuesday his answer - for the thousandth time - was to promise to smash Sinn Féin/IRA. How pathetic.

Without mature and responsible leadership the interests of the unionist people will suffer: without, of course, necessarily advancing the cause of republicanism. Unionism totally divided, and large numbers in despair, is dangerous. However, the leader of mainstream unionism, David Trimble, hadn't the courage to face down his dissidents and the DUP and recognise the magnitude of what the IRA did. Instead, he passed over the opportunity for the elections to be held in a positive and optimistic atmosphere, in favour of presenting himself as a hard man. And now he expects the IRA to bail him out, or, failing that, to provide him with a pretext for refusing to share power with Sinn Féin.

Of all the armed organisations in the North the IRA is the only group that has publicly committed itself to putting its arms and explosives `completely and verifiably' beyond use. The now-abused General John de Chastelain, the British nominee to the decommissioning body most favoured by unionists, has witnessed its actions.

Finally, as David Trimble was reneging on his agreement with Gerry Adams last Tuesday, ten miles away in Belfast the inquest into the murder of young Gavin Brett on that summer's night in July 2001 was being held. Such inquests, along with the weekly statistics of sectarian attacks, transparently remind us that the chief ongoing source of violence is from within the unionist community.

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© 2003 Irish Republican News