This piece of writing is in part a response to Ian, and in part a genuine attempt to illustrate why DUP, and wider unionist/loyalist denunciations of terrorism are not taken seriously by nationalists in Ireland and elsewhere, if indeed they have even been made in the first place.
March 1993: A Month of Murder, Protestant Paramilitary Support, and Sinn Fein votes
In March 1993, the IRA killed a Protestant contractor working on a security force base, a British soldier, and a member of the UFF’s C Company. They also bombed Warrington, resulting in the horrendous murder of two children, Timothy Parry and Jonathan Bell. As an interesting aside, one person who refused to condemn the Warrington bomb is former Brexit Party MEP, Claire Fox. Ms Fox’s past didn’t seem to stop Jamie Bryson from re-Tweeting her.
Loyalist were also highly active in March, 1993. They killed an IRA man, a member of Sinn Fein, and five politically uninvolved Catholic civilians. Loyalists killing two republicans out of nine members of the “nationalist electorate” was unusual – only a statistically tiny number of victims of the UVF/UFF were actually republican activists.
The IRA member, James Kelly, was one of five men shot dead by the UFF on Thursday 25th March. In West Belfast, the UFF’s C Company shot dead a 17 year old man named Damian Walsh. A spokesperson for the UFF, possibly Ray Smallwoods, had this to say about the murders his organisation committed:
We have the arms, the information and more than enough volunteers and the dedication is most certainly there as well. It is a terrible thing that anyone should lose their lives, but if you are talking in terms of success rates, yes, this week has been a success, and it’s still only Thursday.
An incurious loyalist triumphalist collective decided to name their blog after this, and publish excruciating apologia for loyalist sectarian criminality.
It is easy to dismiss that blog as unrepresentative of wider unionist views of loyalist violence. But it is less easy to dismiss a telephone poll conducted in the days after the loyalist killing spree of March 1993. David McKittrick reported in The Independent that:
One opinion poll carried out earlier this month by a Protestant Belfast newspaper, on the admittedly unscientific basis of telephone polling, came up with the alarming result that 42 per cent of Protestants supported loyalist paramilitaries.
Also in 1993, there were local elections. A third of the nationalist vote went to Sinn Fein.
Unionist politicians comfort themselves that their electorates “don’t vote for murderers” – but in 1993, there seemed to be significant support for murderers emanating from the PUL community. It is only one poll, so should be taken with numerous caveats, but then again, unionism equating a vote for Sinn Fein as a vote supporting “murder” is an extremely blunt, and inaccurate, instrument.
Willie McCrea’s Bitter Harvest, and Call for Airstrikes on the Republic of Ireland: Willie McCrea and Billy Wright
Willie McCrea is, among a crowded field, an especially odious DUP politician. He’s well known for appearing on a platform at what a member of the Alliance Party called an “extremist loyalist rally.” with then LVF leader Billy Wright. The LVF were simply murderers, who didn’t even pretend to be waging anything other than a sectarian war against the nationalist population. McCrea appeared with him in 1996, at a time when the UVF had issued a statement ordering Wright out of “Ulster” on pain of death.
McCrea is a criminal: convicted of riotous assembly in 1971. He was also a member of the Shankill Defence Association (which later morphed into the UDA), and gave prayer services at the funerals of the UVF men who blew themselves up whilst attacking the Miami Showband.
It’s worth repeating the defence McCrea gave for his appearance with Billy Wright. This is McCrea’s response to Martin McGuinness at Stormont:
First, may I say that Billy Wright was threatened to get out of the country or be put to death because of his political belief. He was threatened by the UVF, not for any action he had taken or any crime that he had committed … I did not condone any act that Billy Wright or any other had taken. Furthermore, I made it abundantly clear that anyone who had information on any criminal actions for which Billy Wright was liable and on which he could be charged should give it to the police and the case brought before the court … I did not condone any act of Billy Wright or anyone else, but he was condemned to death because he opposed the Belfast Agreement.
I oppose the Belfast Agreement. Does that mean that, in this society, I should be condemned to death for my political belief?
At the Billy Wright inquiry, McCrea reported contact with Wright in 1991 and/or 1992. This included a strange incident in which McCrea received news from an anonymous source of a threat to both McCrea, and Wright’s, life. McCrea didn’t report this to the RUC at the time. Why would that be? I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but it seems to me that McCrea had a pre-existing relationship with Wright. Either McCrea had a pre-existing relationship with Wright, or he was criminally negligible by not passing on a threat to Wright’s life.
Pertinent to this discussion is that McCrea condemns the threat to Wright’s life for his opposition to the Belfast Agreement.
In fact, according to respected BBC journalist Peter Taylor, Wright was expelled from the UVF for, among other things, the LVF’s murder of politically uninvolved nationalist Michael McGoldrick. Mr McGoldrick was murdered on the 8th of July 1996, during the height of the Drumcree ‘protests.’ The UVF apparently started planning the ‘execution’ of Wright shortly afterwards. The murder of McGoldrick apparently didn’t figure in McCrea’s consideration as to whether he should appear with Billy Wright.
Why would any nationalist think McCrea is a man who could be trusted, respected, or taken seriously? Why would any Christian believe that this man practised the teachings of Christ? The squalid nature of McCrea is even more stark when contrasted with the life of Michael McGoldrick, and the calibre of his parents, who forgave the murderers of their son at the time.
Billy Wright, when discussing his motivations for joining the UVF, said this:
“You know,” he said, “when you've looked into the coffins of the ones you love, and you've heard the feeble excuses coming from nationalists, words weren't good enough.”
This could easily be a posthumous condemnation of the man he shared a stage with.
Willie McCrea calls for the Republic of Ireland and (nationalist areas of) the United Kingdom to be bombed by the Royal Air Force
In 2014, the Belfast Telegraph reported that: “One memo reports on the DUP annual conference in Belfast on April 19, 1986 …[it] reports: ‘Rev William McCrea urged Libya-type strikes against Dundalk, Drogheda, Crossmaglen and Carrickmore.’
The memo notes that another senior DUP member, Gregory Campbell, made an ‘extravagant contribution’ when he called for ‘even the foundations of Maryfield to be demolished."
The main speech was given by Peter Robinson, in which he outlined two alternative solutions - negotiation or confrontation … he said the latter would be ‘devastating, terrible and bloody’.”
Ironically, McCrea was inspired by airstrikes on Libyan targets carried out by American planes which took off from British airstrips. Colonel Gadhafi’s daughter was killed in the strikes, which motivated Gadhafi to send tonnes of weapons to Ireland for use by the IRA. One can barely imagine the scale of the propaganda coup for republicans that an RAF attack on nationalist Ireland would have had.
Perhaps to even out the degradation of appointing Clare “Warrington” Fox to the House of Lords, the DUP proposed, and the UK Govt accepted, Willie McCrea for membership of the House of Lords. The respected academic and military historian Edward Burke Tweeted the following:
Interesting. Appointing Willie McCrea to the HoL to ‘pack the chamber for Brexit’ might not sit well for British-Irish relations given his previous support for air strikes on Irish towns, among other things... You just couldn’t make it up!
Peter Robinson – When is a terrorist not a terrorist?
It’s fairly well-known that Peter Robinson was a member of the loyalist paramilitary group Ulster Resistance, along with the then leader of the DUP Ian Paisley. Both men quit Ulster Resistance when it became public knowledge that the organisation had been robbing banks and buying weapons.
Robinson was also the most public face of a large group of loyalists who extensively vandalised property in the village of Clontibret and beat up two Gardai officers.
Both of these incidents, simultaneously pathetic, sinister and ridiculous, are indicative of a rather dark and dysfunctional personality. In 2014, the Belfast Telegraph reported that:
[Ian] Paisley had scorned Robinson's involvement in the infamous loyalist invasion of Clontibret in August 1986, when he led a mob of 500 in protest at the Anglo Irish Agreement, holding a military parade in the town square before being driven over the border by the gardai.
Subsequent riots at Robinson's trial in Dundalk saw Paisley attacked with stones and petrol bombs.
‘I think he thought that was going to be a tremendous uprising, but that didn't happen,’ scoffed Paisley in the documentary.
Robinson challenged his account, claiming that it had been Paisley himself who was the one who had agreed to go to Clontibret, but then had to leave to go to a funeral in the US and Robinson had stepped in as his deputy.
Robinson briefly resigned as deputy leader of the DUP after the incident.
But the harder line adopted by Paisley over the UVF Dublin and Monaghan bombings in 1974 showed how out of step the two DUP men had become.
While Paisley said the Republic had ‘brought it on themselves’ with their attitude to the North, Robinson said ‘terrorism" was responsible’.”
Ian Paisley blaming the victims of the biggest mass-murder during the conflict won’t surprise anyone, but Robinson blaming “terrorism” on the attack is confusing. Peter Robinson was very careful not to label those from his own community who carried out terrorist acts as terrorists. In an infamous interview, in 1986 he refused to describe the UVF/UDA as terrorists, and also refused to “condemn them by name.”
Fast forward to today, and we have the current leader of the DUP apparently spending much of his time and energy with Jamie Bryson – another man who doesn’t believe terrorists are terrorists when they’re terrorising on behalf of a loyalist organisation.
Again, why would any nationalist trust any DUP politician when it is rotten from the top down with demagogues, bigots, and religious extremists? I chose Willie McCrea and Peter Robinson, but most high profile DUP figures have similarly stunted and hypocritical pasts.
Where is the unionist equivalent to John Hume? A person who condemned violence emanating from his own community at least as stridently as he did other violence?
⏩ Brandon Sullivan is a middle aged, middle management, centre-left Belfast man. Would prefer people focused on the actual bad guys.