Jeremy Corbyn’s Problem: The Irish Have Terrorists But The British Have Paramilitaries

There is an old joke from the UK-administered north-east of Ireland, one that has a great deal of truth behind it. During the so-called Troubles, the thirty years of insurgency and counterinsurgency in the contested region, those fighting against the United Kingdom were the “terrorists” while those fighting for the United Kingdom were the “paramilitaries”. At least that is how the government of Britain invariably labelled such bodies in its official pronouncements and the press in London and its offshoots followed suit. The “terrorists” of Irish republicanism “murdered”, the “paramilitaries” of British loyalism “killed”. There is hardly a person on this island who is unfamiliar with the duplicitous narrative concocted in the corridors of power in Whitehall and repeated by the denizens of Fleet Street and Broadcasting House from the 1970s to the present post-war day.

The history of the Ulster Defence Association illustrates this hypocrisy. The UDA was and still is the largest terror faction in Europe, with several hundred members (and some 40,000 at its height). Since its establishment in 1971 the grouping has carried out many acts of violence in Ireland, and in particular the Six Counties. As of 2017, these actions have left nearly five hundred men, women and children dead. The latest was just two days ago with the murder of Colin Horner, gunned down in a car park in County Down. Throughout most of its existence the faction held a unique position in the United Kingdom, and one with almost no equal anywhere else in the Western democratic world. The Ulster Defence Association was a legal terrorist organisation. Despite demands and pressure from successive governments in Dublin and Washington the authorities in London refused to ban it, glossing over its decades’ long record of gun and bomb attacks. In fact it took the Irish-British peace process of the 1990s and reciprocal gestures during negotiations between the UK and the Republican Movement for the UDA to be “proscribed” in 1992.

The Ulster Defence Association remains an illegal terrorist organisation to the present day. It is still on the proscribed terror lists of the United Kingdom, Ireland, the European Union and the United States of America. Yet below is a picture of Theresa Villiers, the Conservative Party’s then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, posing with Dee Stitt and Jimmy Birch, two UDA leaders. To be clear, this is a government minister of the UK meeting the chiefs of a terrorist faction in full public view. Given the frenzied press attacks in Britain on Jeremy Corbyn for meeting members of Sinn Féin, a never proscribed political party with elected councillors, MPs, TDanna and MEPs, what message does this send to the world? And to the people of Ireland in particular?

British UDA terror bosses Dee Stitt and Jimmy Birch flank the UK Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Theresa Villiers

We know that for twenty years the Ulster Defence Association, which numbered former and serving British soldiers and police officers among its membership, was used as the cutting edge of the United Kingdom’s counterinsurgency war in Ireland. Acting as the UDA-UFF, the group almost exclusively targeted the civilian population of this country, along with its cohorts in the Red Hand Commando, the Ulster Volunteer Force and the Loyalist Volunteer Force. Yet all knowledge of this seems to be absent from Britain’s understanding of the conflict, either out of ignorance or deliberate oversight. Forty-six years into the formation of the UDA as a British terror faction we are still waiting for the mainstream British press and political class to admit its role in perpetuating Europe’s longest-running and apparently still quasi-legal terrorist organisation.

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16 comments

  1. In the 80s the UK govt would not promote a local RUC ACC to CC because they knew one of the four were active in loyalist paramilitaries. They claimed not to know which one, so they kept appointing people from Britain to the role until all four ACCs left (the period of Hermon and Annesley). So it seems there were *some* limits to the degree of collusion they would support.

      1. Breen & Buchanan for example. Sure the entire RUC SB was riddled with collusion, their rehire to the HET showed us all where it was going to end up years ago.

  2. I suspect that at that time, the RUC was considered by the Nationalist population to be riddled from top to bottom with cross-over membership of the various Loyalist “Organization”. The B-Specials, was essentially, the licenced, paid, trained, and equipped RUC branch of the UDA, the UDA was a solid component of the full time RUC, and vice versa. PSNI must still have in it some elements of the old Loyalist organisations. The whole point being that deep down, nothing has changed. The Loyalist organizations also have the dubious distinction of being the World’s oldest “White-Settler organizations”. The illegal Rhodesian regime was full of such people. There is also the curious cross over and linkages betwen the Loyalists, and UK national front elements, and other fascist grouplings. A number of right wing terror attacks on the mainland can be traced to this. The UDR, of course, must have had the same cross over. It must have been very confusing for the members, remembering which organization they were meant to be in, on particular days, etc……Now we are faced with a PNSI that goes round offering cash and shopping vouchers to people to be informants. They have’nt actually sorted out giving them air-miles, as well, but that will no doubt happen. (not valid on Aer Lingus, terms and conditions apply). I have reached the point now where I am very confused. The British Queen had tea and cakes with a Mr Adams and a Mr Mcguiness, and that was ok. Or did I hallucinate that?. None of that is mentioned in the UK press, attacking Corbyn for his inclinations. It must be very confusing for the UK hacks to keep track of the twists and changes of Irish politics. it is also confusing for the senior Republicans, who now have Royal Family acceptance, to remember, when they meet senior PSNI officers, as part of their elected duties, who they are really meeting, and why. Ditto, the hapless Loyalists. This has now gone on for two decades now, since the cease fire and peace agreement. I fear the peace agreement is now about to collapse, because of all this confusion. There is now nothing else for it. The UN must now issue proper armbands, to be worn on the appropriate day, at appropriate meetings, in appropriate locations. The problem is that some of those involved would have to wear several armbands, at a single meeting. But each armband, would, under the peace agreement, have “parity of esteem”. So I have to announce, with great regret, that we have to call in UN peace keeping forces. They of course, should have their own special armband, for service North or South of the border…..but…….(sound of muffled thuds, large sections of the Northern irisah population being dragged off be sectioned in a suitable institution…etc etc etc..

  3. A great article and a great title for the article. It shouldn’t be forgotten either that the doyenne of Irish Dublin 4 liberals, Garret Fitzgerald publicly met with (when he was Taoiseach) John McMichael, the UDA leader, and posed for a photo-op with this notorious killer at the front of Leinster House (McMichael holding a copy of the UDA’s policy document “Common Sense”). No one in the sanctimonious Anglo-Irish media made a scene over that – au contraire Garret was universally lauded for his vision in “reaching out” to Loyalists. And of course former senior Tory Minister Norman Tebbit suggested in the 1990s that a “a few big bombs” in Dublin would persuade the Irish to abandon their interest in the six counties. The Primacy Of British Unionist Suffering narrative doesn’t get more blatant than when the hacks are ignoring all of this.

    More recently the British government have sold huge quantities of arms to the Saudis – the country that both Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton have admitted is sponsoring both Isis and Al Qaeda. The hypocrisy is off the charts.

  4. The British labeled George Washington a terrorist while he was leading the Continental Army against the empire of Britain and would have hung him if he were captured. I wonder if they retracted that label even when they begged for our assistance in WW1 and WW2. The British were the terrorists back then and they are the terrorists today in Ireland.

    1. Of course the embryonic US Navy raided the coasts of north-western Europe during the Revolutionary Era and afterward, attacking civilian and mercantile shipping, and they were regarded as 18th century “terrorists”. Even by the standards of the time, their actions were judged illegitimate.

      1. Sure but they invaded Britain, capturing a seaside town for a day! Got further than the Germans in two world wars 😉 So, you know, can’t be all that “illegitimate”……

        1. Off topic I know but the Germans could easily have have knocked Britain out of the war at Dunkirk and then launched a successful invasion. Dunkirk is painted in Britain as an heroic escape, when of course it was a less than heroic full scale scarper, which only succeeded because the Germans allowed it to. Hitler, for reasons best known to himself, decided to let British forces flee, when he could have wiped them out. He was of course an ardent fan of the British Empire, which may or may not explain his extraordinarily illogical approach to the war on this and many other occasions.

      2. Well the British were hardly in a position to complain about the morality of raids on their shipping and coastlines, since they lionised and still lionise state sponsored pirates who did precisely the same, e.g., Francis Drake.

  5. Similarly, and right up to date, from the Conservative and Unionist Party in Government at Westminster, those who vote Yes to Scotland’s Independence, or for the SNP, are branded ‘separatists’ and ‘insurgents’.
    Everyone else in Unionist world is a voter.

  6. First Boreland then Gimour now Horner. At least 3 killings in under 10 months and virtual silence from unionists. Bangor shooting was so brazen,obviously no fear of police. Horner’s killers probably work for psni. UDA’s motto is so ironic.

  7. Yep. The squealing and grunting about whether the IRA had really gone away when a few dissidents were killed a few years ago is noticeably absent this time round.

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