Read this. Go on. I expect drivel in the Jim Gibney column, but this had even a hardened cynic like myself nearly falling out of my chair. It lends further credence to the idea that Jim’s weekly column is really a sophisticated project of absurdist performance art.
It’s almost beyond commentary. Almost, but not quite. Jim starts out with the unexceptionable observation that the British state played a major part in the creation of the death squads, and the spooks directed their activities for many years. Then we get this zinger:
Attempts by loyalists, UDA and UVF, to establish political parties following their ceasefire declarations in 1994, were primarily destroyed by the intelligence services and the RUC’s Special Branch.
The UDA and the UVF had competent politicians in Davy Adams, Gary Mc Michael, Billy Hutchinson and the late David Ervine. These individuals were committed to giving working-class loyalists a political voice at a very important stage in the fledgling peace process.
There was an unprecedented public and sympathetic media focus on these individuals; a focus that should have helped their plans to build political parties.
But their independent stance and their intentions to follow an independent path were at odds with the needs of the intelligence services. Loyalists thinking and behaving in their own interests was the last thing the various intelligence services wanted to see happening.
It threatened the ability of the intelligence services to use the UDA and the UVF to serve their interests which usually meant violent activities aimed at undermining or putting in jeopardy the peace process.
The UDA and UVF’s plans to represent the loyalist working classes were destroyed by the behaviour of Johnny Adair, John White, Billy Wright, Jim Gray and the Shoukri brothers among others.
White and Adair fled the country and White was later exposed as an agent. All of them at different times and over a protracted period put pressure on the credibility of the claim by loyalist politicians that they supported the peace process.
All righty. Let’s see if we’ve got this straight. The Brits created the loyalist organisations. Then the loyalists decided to follow the path of peace, but the spooks undermined them.
Let me put an alternative interpretation. The loyalist parties were given a high profile through a media blitz combined with state patronage as a quid pro quo for their support for the GFA process. To put it more crudely, they were rewarded financially, given seats at the talks table and had the electoral system rigged in their favour, basically as payback for acting as muscle for Trimble. The fact that they failed to build serious parties has little to do with the spooks and everything to do with the nature of these organisations.
Which is not to say the spooks haven’t been playing silly buggers. But the idea Jim is putting forward, that the spooks have been systematically undermining the very figures the Brits have been sponsoring to the hilt, strains credulity. No less so Jim’s implication that the UDA is involved in criminality because the spooks are forcing it to commit crimes.
This is the reductio ad absurdum of the Provos’ securocrat thesis. The thesis always had a grain of truth, but the latter-day variant of the thesis, that bad securocrats were working to a secret agenda that involved sabotaging the policy of the benevolent British government, was ropy to say the least. And now Jim follows that up by arguing that the job of the Brits, unionists and cops is to support Jackie McDonald and the “good” section of the UDA.
Perhaps the key to this cobblers is to be found in Jim’s conclusion that “The carrot not the stick is needed to strengthen the pro-peace process UDA leadership.” I may have got the wrong end of the stick, but that looks to me like a pop at Margaret Ritchie over her threat to stop the UDA’s £1.2m conflict transformation grant. So this is the shape of republican strategy today – demanding that Jackie get his subvention? Lord preserve us.
Rud eile: I was extremely sorry to hear of the death of John Kelly. I didn’t agree with where he had gone over recent years, but he was a good and dedicated republican. That whole generation seems to be leaving us.