ANALYSIS: Aspirational words but no new ideas

There was a lot of hype around Tony Blair's former chief of staff Jonathan Powell and fractured groupings at the launch of the Loyalist Communities Council. Picture by Mal McCann

THERE'S been a lot of hype around the launch of a loyalist unity project that hinted at bringing an end to paramilitary activity, but it failed to deliver any new ideas as to how to wind those organisations up.

While veterans of all three main paramilitary groups showed up at the Park Avenue Hotel in east Belfast to give endorsement to the project, started by UKIP's David McNarry and facilitated by Tony Blair's former chief of staff Jonathan Powell, convincing the foot soldiers of the merits will be a much harder sell.

Much was made about the significance of the date, coming 21 years after the loyalist ceasefire announcement made by the then Combined Loyalist Military Command.

And granted, getting people like William 'Plum' Smith, Jackie McDonald and John 'Bunter' Graham all under one roof is a noteworthy event given the fractious nature of modern-day loyalism.

But much more significant is the age and mindset of the people currently involved in loyalist paramilitary groups and how those groups have changed in the passing years.

Allowing loyalism to fester was a mistake and Powell, who was involved in the negotiations that helped bring about peace, recognises that and it would seem has endorsed this initiative with sincerity in an effort to redress that wrong.

We've been told this process has been ongoing for 18 months but kept quiet to allow it to find direction and common ground away from the public glare.

But in the majority of cases it wasn't just the media but the rank and file who only learned about the initiative over the last week and rest assured they're far from impressed.

The statement issued on behalf the UDA, UVF and Red Hand Commando called for support and hopes of 'meaningful funding', but trying to fix more than two decades of growing resentment with a few aspirational words and community jobs for the chosen few just isn't going to cut it.

There is only so much money you can throw at a problem before you have to accept that those who really wanted to move on already have, those interested in community development are already in these roles, and those left behind will carry on regardless.

At some point it has be accepted that loyalist violence and criminality is not a political problem but a policing one.


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