The British authorities in Ireland are coming under pressure to finally dismantle the loyalist drugs gangs behind the current wave of street violence and cease the state funding that supports them.
While the ‘Loyalist Communities Council’ who represent the UDA and UVF, have denied being behind the violence, to do so would have meant admitting the ceasefires declared by the groups in 1994 are meaningless, and paved the way for loyalist leaders to be returned to prison.
Despite acting for drug dealers and murder gangs, the LCC continue to be treated as statesmen by unionist and Tory politicians and the PSNI, who have all held meetings with them in recent weeks. For many years, they and related groups have been awarded the funding and patronage of both the Dublin and London governments.
But after a week of orchestrated loyalist violence, the claim by the LCC that none of its “associated groups” have been involved in the street violence has been ridiculed.
It hypocritically said on Friday that “peaceful protest” was a “fundamental human right” and that any actions taken by the loyalists “should be entirely peaceful”. However, there have been no peaceful protests this week, except for one desultory display at Stormont on Thursday by independent unionist councillor Jolene Bunting and three colleagues.
“To date, there has been a spectacular collective failure to understand properly the scale and nature of unionist and loyalist anger. Indeed there is a complete failure to understand loyalists as people and equal citizens,” the LCC claimed, before attacking the Brexit deal and the Irish protocol.
But despite their gaslighting statement, the scenes of violence over the past week are being blamed on a decline in crime profits for the UDA and UVF factions.
Even British Direct Ruler Brandon Lewis confirmed on Thursday that the crime gangs who were “encouraging and driving” the current violence were doing so as a “pushback” against those policing operations which challenged their empires.
The manner in which the violence has continued to be switched on and off in various UDA/UVF strongholds around the North, most recently in Tiger’s Bay, has also given the lie to claims of spontaneous outpourings of political grievance. Few believe the youths involved would have any interest in the new customs procedures at ports.
The US and Dublin governments, meanwhile, have called for calm to be restored and reiterated their support for the Irish protocol, the part of the Brexit withdrawal treaty which has created different trade rules for the North of Ireland.
Officials in Dublin are reportedly critical of some DUP politicians, who they believe laid the foundations for the loyalist unrest with attacks on the Irish protocol.
“Their language has staked all this out, right back to ‘blood red lines’,” one said, referring to DUP leader Arlene Foster’s inflammatory resistance to the proposals of then British PM Theresa May.
Foster’s extraordinary statement this week blaming Sinn Féin as the “real law breakers” for its involvement in the Bobby Storey funeral last year is also being seen as a disingenuous attempt to link the street violence to fictitious grievances.
Sinn Féin Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill confirmed her belief that those taking part in the disturbances were influenced by loyalist paramilitaries and criminal elements.
“These people are no role models for our youth,” she said. “They’re outdated, they’re antiquated and they’re caught in a time warp which has no bearing on where the vast majority of people across this society are or, indeed, where they want to be.”