A report of the British government’s IMC sanctions body has blamed the unionist paramilitary UVF for recent killings, putting pressure on the British Direct Ruler Peter Hain to admit that the group is in breach of its ceasefire.
However, Mr Hain has brushed off criticism by the leader of the nationalist SDLP, Mark Durkan, that he was allowing the paramilitary organisation literally to “get away with murder”.
The much-maligned Indepedent Monitoring Commission is seen as little more than a front for British military intelligence and the PSNI Special Branch.
However, since July 1st, the UVF has openly murdered at least four people, engaged in numerous other attacks and orchestrated rioting in north Belfast just this week.
The rioting was triggered by the arrest of one man and the seizure of a UVF machine gun on Monday. The weapon, said to be of a Sten-gun type, and other UVF material were seized following a public paramilitary display - a “show of strength” - in north Belfast on Saturday.
Vehicles were hijacked, looted and set alight during rioting that lasted several hours and on three separate days in an effort to prevent further raids and arrests. Teenagers were being encouraged to riot through text messages sent by the UVF to their mobile phones.
Mr Hain has refused to “specify” the organisation - rule that its cessation was no longer intact - thus preserving the freedom of former UVF prisoners, some of whom are thought to have returned to violence.
Mr Durkan said he asked Mr Hain was his failure to specify the UVF showing “favour” to the paramilitary organisation or “fear” of the UVF. “It is not good enough for the Secretary of State to shrug his shoulders and wring his hands on the UVF,” he said.
“We argued that by not specifying the UVF the secretary of state was damaging his own credibility and undermining the morale of decent people. How can the NIO expect people to stand up to the UVF if he does not?”
Mr Durkan made his comments on a day when the four main church leaders also met Mr Hain in Belfast to also press for action to end sectarian attacks and “the restoration of law and order on our streets”.
Mr Hain said his concern was to stop the violence and he would not be rushed into precipitate action. “My concern is to stop the murder and the crime . . . you do not necessarily do that by quick procedural fixes.”
He said specifying the UVF was an option which he was considering but his priority was to work with the police and British army “to stop the violence and the murder and the mayhem”.