Extreme loyalists who have chosen to let their guns do the talking

David McKittrick on the savagery of the paramilitaries and the dilemma over keeping their 'leaders' in the peace process

INSIDE the Maze prison earlier this month, Johnny "Mad Dog" Adair, a leading light of the Ulster Defence Association, posed for the cameras in front of one of the UDA wing's many warlike decorations.

This one, a flag featuring a fierce knife and grinning skull, was emblazoned with the slogan "Kill 'em all - let God sort 'em out!" There could be no better summary of the essence of loyalist violence, as practised by the UDA and others such as the Loyalist Volunteer Force.

Two of the Catholic men killed and injured by the UDA and LVF since Christmas have been distant relatives of Sinn Fein figures, but in both cases the connections appear to be purely coincidental. All seven of those who died were killed not because of their associations or their political beliefs: they died simply because of the long-established and truly primitive loyalist principle that "any Catholic will do".

Seamus Dillon and Terry Enright were doormen standing outside discos; Edmund Treanor was having a New Year's Eve drink in a bar; Fergal McCusker was walking home after a night out; Larry Brennan was waiting in his taxi for a fare; Ben Hughes was on his way home to his children and grandchildren from the shop in a Protestant district where he had worked for almost 30 years.

Each one was easily identified as Catholic by sectarian geography. At one time in the 1970s some loyalists would deny they were motivated by straight tribalism, but today the long years of killing have removed any embarrassment. The RUC's files are littered with confessions from Protestant assassins illustrating their sectarian motivation. "We decided to pick up a Taig and do him in," more than one confessed. Another said he had killed a Protestant woman "because she was a Taig-lover".

Of the almost 1,000 people that loyalists have killed in the Troubles, more than 600 were uninvolved Catholics gunned down, blown up, stabbed or beaten to death in an expression of religious hatred. The rest were activists.

Because both loyalists and the IRA have killed so many people, casual observers sometimes make the mistake of assuming that the extreme Protestant groups and the republicans are essentially mirror-images of each other. That is not the case.

Security sources and those working with prisoners readily confirm that the loyalists are less disciplined, less organised, less educated, less political and much worse at PR than the IRA. More have been in trouble with the law for non-terrorist offences. They are more hot-blooded and more eager to seek speedy vengeance, as has happened in recent weeks.

Loyalists themselves sometimes characterise their violence as "counter- terrorism", arguing that their attacks are essentially retaliation against republican violence from the IRA and INLA. That is partly true, but it is highly misleading to suggest it is the whole story.

While the seven killings of recent weeks have indeed represented savage vengeance for the INLA's killings of two loyalist figures, the fact is that violence from extreme Protestants is almost commonplace. It comes from organisations which are supposed to be observing a ceasefire, others which are not, and sometimes it comes from mobs in neither category.

Last year, for example, loyalists were involved in up to 15 killings, compared with four carried out by republicans. Some were the work of the LVF while some were "internal" or "disciplinary" shootings.

A Catholic man was beaten to death in the bitterly divided town of Portadown, while in County Antrim a policeman was kicked to death by a mob which resented his part in halting loyalist marches. In Belfast, a former Protestant minister of religion, wrongly suspected of being a paedophile, sustained two broken legs, a suspected fractured skull and puncture wounds in a beating incident, and later died.

While the IRA has always had its political wing, the equivalents have emerged only recently in groups such as the Ulster Defence Association and Ulster Volunteer Force. Within the multi-party talks the Ulster Democratic Party, headed by Gary McMichael, speaks for the UDA.

Most politicians involved in the talks privately accept the bona fides of the leaders of these political adjuncts. It is obvious from the recent killings, however, that the parent paramilitary groups remain ready to resort to violence at any moment. That highlights the dilemma for the authorities and others involved. Kicking the UDP out of the talks might well send the UDA back to full-scale violence, triggering an IRA response and thus wrecking the peace process.

But allowing the UDP to stay means that the two governments and the conventional political parties will be sitting at the table with those associated with an unapologetically active terrorist organisation. All involved will be making their judgements on whether the true face of the UDA is that of Gary McMichael, or of Johnny Adair, and whether the former might ever displace the latter.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £60,000

£25000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Care Workers Required - The London Borough of Bromley

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This homecare agency is based in Beckenh...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Day In a Page

Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m