David McKittrick: Loyalists fear government sell-out, and violence is their only voice

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The Ulster Volunteer Force and other extreme loyalists have, through recent activities including murder, intimidation and sustained rioting, made it clear that they will remain active, even if the IRA stands down as promised.

The paramilitary underworld is restless, and is again demonstrating that it can be unnerved by IRA activity - even when that activity is regarded by the British and Irish governments as welcome.

So the IRA promise to decommission has spread unease and even alarm among loyalists, since it aroused fears that republicans will be rewarded by London and Dublin in what they view as a process of appeasement.

Alistair Little, a community worker who served a life sentence for a UVF murder, said yesterday: "A lot of people are living in fear, thinking they're being treated as second-class citizens. They think the politicians are letting us down. A lot of people feel uncomfortable about the violence, but they're at their wits' end to know how else you send a message to the Government."

Although loyalists were called on to the streets by the Orange Order, it is the paramilitary groups who are, literally, calling the shots. No one knows how long they will attempt to keep violence going.

There is, as yet, no huge unease that continuing loyalist rioting will lead to a cancellation of IRA decommissioning, a development which would be regarded by the authorities as a disaster.

Nonetheless, if the violence continues for many more days it is bound to generate worry that republicans could put off disarmament. While most of the recent attacks have been directed against the security forces, republicans and nationalists in vulnerable areas could put pressure on the IRA not to give up its guns.

And, as one loyalist said: "If there is rioting and hijacking and burning and looting then young people will be drawn into it. It's creating another generation."