In response to the very selective quoting of the British government’s “independent” assessment of the current status of various paramilitary formations in the north-east of Ireland I thought some ASF readers might appreciate some rather more detailed extracts from the original report (which can be read in full at the UK government website. Please exercise reasonable security cautions when accessing or downloading the PDF file if using a personal computing device).
This is Britain’s evaluation of where the (Provisional) Irish Republican Army now stands in 2015, if one can ignore the partisan terminology and historical misinterpretations used in the analysis:
“Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA)
The Provisional IRA was the largest and most active terrorist organisation operating in NI during the Troubles. It was responsible for 1771 murders between 1969 and 1998.
12. Structure: The structures of PIRA remain in existence in a much reduced form. This includes a senior leadership, the ‘Provisional Army Council’ (PAC), and some departments with specific responsibilities. At a lower level, there are some regional command structures. At this lower level, some activity takes place without the knowledge or direction of the leadership. We do not believe the group is actively recruiting. The group took part in decommissioning between 2001 and 2005 but continues to have access to some weapons. We judge PIRA has not conducted organised procurement of new weaponry in the period since the last IMC report of 2011.
13. Role: PIRA members believe that the PAC oversees both PIRA and Sinn Fein with an overarching strategy. We judge this strategy has a wholly political focus. PIRA members have been directed to actively support Sinn Fein within the community including activity like electioneering and leafleting. Some PIRA members are involved in gathering information of interest to the group including details of DR activities and the attempted identification of covert human intelligence sources (CHIS). A small number are involved in the storage of remaining weaponry in order to prevent its loss to DRs. Individual PIRA members remain involved in criminal activity, such as large scale smuggling, and there have been isolated incidents of violence, including murders. The investigation into the murder of Kevin McGuigan is still ongoing; however, we judge that the assessment put forward by the Chief Constable in his public statement on 22 August remains accurate.
14. Purpose: The PIRA of the Troubles era is well beyond recall. It is our firm assessment that PIRA’s leadership remains committed to the peace process and its aim of achieving a united Ireland by political means. The group is not involved in targeting or conducting terrorist attacks against the state or its representatives. There have only been very limited indications of dissent to date and we judge that this has been addressed effectively by the leadership.”
If the core of that examination looks familiar to regular ASF readers perhaps they might cast their minds back to this assessment of (P)IRA on the website nearly two months ago.
“The idea that (P)IRA continues to exist as a military organisation, however skeletal its nature, seems to have taken a lot of journalists, politicians and other commentators by surprise, which I suppose highlights the levels of wilful ignorance or feigned naivety that exists amongst the chattering classes. Of course the Executive, Army Council, GHQ Staff and various directorships and departments still exist, if only in nominal form. It doesn’t mean that (P)IRA has several hundred volunteers ready and willing to be placed on active service should the need arise, or units capable of being mobilised across the length and breadth of the country with the issuing of a communiqué from Dublin. Did it ever?”
And again, just a few weeks later:
“Certainly the (Provisional) Irish Republican Army is no longer on a war footing. It has become, in all senses of the term, a peace-time army, and one set upon a long-term policy that will eventually lead to its own institutional demise. Yet it remains an army, however skeletal, however deliberately reduced in numbers, organisation and equipment. While some see this as a problem, an impediment to future political progress in the north-east, others see it as a guarantor of peace. By retaining some structure, even a nominal one, former volunteers, their families, friends and communities know that the guerilla movement remains as an option of last defence.”
With all the political and media focus on (P)IRA very little attention has been devoted to the former counter-insurgency proxies of the United Kingdom, namely the British terror factions (which is no surprise given the present orgy of hypocritical sentiment in certain self-interested quarters). Yet here is this description of the UVF and the origins of the thirty-year Irish-British conflict contained in the body of the report:
“Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) and Red Hand Commando (RHC)
The UVF was responsible for the first three murders of the Troubles in 1966. The organisation, and the closely linked Red Hand Commando, were responsible for 544 further murders during the period between 1966 and 1999.”
Which of course is a point I have made repeatedly, the most recent example at the start of this month:
“It was [Gusty] Spence, a former British soldier, who helped re-establish the Ulster Volunteer Force or UVF in 1965, at the request of senior members of the Ulster Unionist Party, almost certainly including the UUP MP for West Belfast, Sir James Kilfedder. The next year, following a campaign of unrest on the streets that benefited several unionist politicians, the UVF murdered seventy-seven year old Matilda Gould in an arson attack on a “Catholic” pub (ironically she was a Protestant grandmother.) A couple of weeks later twenty-eight year old John Scullion was gunned down in a drive-by shooting, while another young man, eighteen year old Peter Ward, was shot dead and two others wounded not long after that.
These dreadful events all took place in the latter half of 1965 and the first seven months of 1966. The (Provisional) Irish Republican Army was not to come into formal existence until December of 1969, and its first attacks did not occur until 1970, four years after the UVF and Spence went on their rampage in Belfast. The modern Troubles began with British terror, just as it did with all those which preceded it. That is the one fact of history that no amount of historical excuses or falsehoods can hide.”
Incongruously I now find myself in a situation where the representatives of the UK state agree with my contemporary and historical analysis of Ireland’s British troubles. Good lord…
“4. Structure: The structures of the UVF remain in existence and there are some indications of recruitment. A top leadership sets strategy for the group but there are lower levels of leadership who have some independence in decision making. The group took part in decommissioning in June 2009 but continues to have access to some weapons. The RHC is a separate group but has been closely aligned to the UVF throughout its history. It is considered by some to be an extension of the UVF’s structures.
However, a larger number of members, including some senior figures, are extensively involved in organised crime including drug dealing, extortion and smuggling. Members of the UVF are involved in conducting paramilitary-style assaults on those they accuse of anti-social behaviour. These activities have a significant impact on the local community. The leadership has sought to limit involvement in street disorder or violent protest; however, individual members of the UVF have continued to engage in such activity and, in some cases, to orchestrate it.
6. Purpose: It is our firm assessment that the leadership of the UVF is committed to transforming the purpose of the group from violent crime to community focused initiatives but have only limited control over the activities of its membership. In some cases UVF members are heavily involved in violence and crime.
Ulster Defence Association (UDA) and Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF)
The UDA was responsible for 408 murders between 1970 and 1999. It was a legal organisation for much of this period and conducted attacks under the name of the Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF).
7. Structure: The structures of the UDA remain in existence but have become increasingly fragmented. There are some indications of recruitment. The UDA is currently split into a number of discrete geographic areas, each with its own structures, which act almost completely autonomously. The UFF, previously used as a front for the UDA, no longer exists. The UDA took part in decommissioning in January 2010 but continues to have access to some weapons.
8. Role: With the support of some leadership figures, there are UDA members who have continued attempts to steer the group into positive community-based activism. A very small number of members have taken active roles highlighting loyalist issues through the Ulster Political Research Group (UPRG). However, others have been resistant to change and have remained active in criminality and violence. Individual members and some senior figures within many UDA areas are involved in organised crime including drug dealing, robbery, extortion and the distribution of counterfeit and contraband goods. There has been an increase in paramilitary-style assaults in recent years and, in the north Antrim area, one resulted in a fatality for which a murder investigation is ongoing. These activities have a significant impact on the local community. The leadership has sought to limit involvement in street disorder or violent protest; however, individual members of the UDA have continued to engage in such activity.
9. Purpose: It is our firm assessment that parts of the UDA leadership are committed to transforming the purpose of the group from violent crime to community focused initiatives but have only limited control over the activities of its membership. In some cases UDA members are heavily involved in violence and crime.
South East Antrim UDA (SEA UDA)
The South East Antrim (SEA) group of the UDA split from the mainstream UDA in 2006. During the period of the Troubles, this group was one of the largest and most active within the UDA.
10. The SEA UDA remains a separate entity from the mainstream UDA. It retains structures similar to those within the mainstream UDA and its membership is engaged in the same types of criminal and violent activity. During the Union flag protests in 2012 individual members of SEA UDA were believed to have been involved in serious disorder in the Carrickfergus area.
Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF)
The LVF formed following a split in the UVF in 1996. It was responsible for 12 murders between 1997 and 1999.
11. The LVF exists only as a criminal group in Antrim and mid-Ulster.”
Published below are a few recent, randomly selected press photos featuring some of the leading political figures of British unionism in Ireland, members of the DUP, UUP and TUV, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the representatives of the pro-UK gunmen and bombers who slaughtered several hundred Irish men, women and children during the course of the so-called Troubles, and a few dozen more since then. They don’t look too concerned about secret armies or criminal empires built upon drugs, racketeering, smuggling and prostitution, do they?
Denial, it seems, is not just a river in Egypt…