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We're giving you your area back
The newly notorious IBA in West Belfast raises some difficult issues for those opposed to any form of communal self-policing.
Somewhere below the political radar, the people of the St James's area in West Belfast are experiencing an extraordinary eruption of gang warfare. A group of young hoods have created their own organisation called the IBA. They are using a Bebo website to publicise their activities and to organise some recreational rioting with their counterparts in the loyalist Village area.
The IBA lists its influences on the Bebo site as ' alcohol, drugs and stolen cars' and, judging by the videos they post up, this is an honest and accurate account. There are blurry pictures of handbrake turns accompanied by drunken screams of encouragement from the person holding the camera, and pictures also of IBA members attacking PSNI landrovers. The Andersonstown News has never been more indignant. The IBA, it says, is nothing but a 'notorious criminal gang' and a 'bunch of despised hooligans' What is more, the paper will not deign to print what the initials stand for as the words are simply too obscene.
For those interested enough to pursue the inquiry, the full name can be found on the Bebo site. With presumably the same degree of honesty that characterises all their activity, the chosen name is I'd Buck Anything. If this piece of self-disclosure were not enough, various members have chosen to post up photos of themselves on the site. Big mistake.
The IBA now finds itself the target of various republican groupings, all competing for the vacant slot of community policemen. A group of 40 members of Oglaigh na hEireann descended on the area one night at the end of July, some of them masked and armed with handguns. The Irish News reported that when a local woman confronted one of the gunmen to ask what he was doing he replied 'We're here to give you your area back'.
This attempt to become the champions of the local community is not without its own risks. The Oglaigh na hEireann group took a young IBA man off to be kneecapped but their gun jammed. Worse, the four volunteers were then picked up by the PSNI as they attempted to drive out of the area. Gloating in the IBA camp did not last long as visits to individual homes forced a large number of the young hoods to flee.
The problem that remains for Sinn Féin is that they appeared toothless in West Belfast in July, just as they appeared toothless in Ardoyne in the same month, when young rioters were prepared to cheek Bobby Storey and Gerry Kelly in the street. No-one in the Patten Commission saw any of this coming.
October 27, 2010
This article appeared in the September 2010 edition of Fortnight.