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UDA cash now indefensible

(Editorial, Irish News)

After a generally peaceful marching season and months of positive political developments, the large-scale rioting in Bangor has provided an unwelcome jolt.

This was not some random, low-level outbreak of stone-throwing from a group of drink-fuelled youths – which has become, unfortunately, a common occurrence.

What took place in the Kilcooley estate was an incident of a much more sinister and disturbing nature during which gunshots were fired, cars burned and petrol bombs and other missiles thrown at police, who responded with plastic bullets, hitting six people.

Wednesday night's disturbances came after a day of simmering tensions on the estate following police raids on a number of homes.

Police said this operation was aimed at serious and organised crime.

Meanwhile, there were claims that officers prevented access to people preparing for a funeral and this sparked particular anger.

However, it is important that accusations of inappropriate or heavy-handed behaviour are dealt with through procedures which are in place to hold officers to account.

There can be no possible justification for large numbers of people coming on to the streets of this estate and causing mayhem.

The fact that live rounds were fired at police is particularly alarming and could easily have resulted in death or serious injury.

Sir Hugh Orde has blamed the UDA for the trouble, making it abundantly clear that he is firmly opposed to the £1.2 million funding the British government is providing to move the organisation away from violence and criminality.

There are many who will share his view.

The government's decision to hand over this cash was always difficult to justify but is looking increasingly indefensible as criminality continues and the chief constable accuses the organisation supposedly benefiting from public funding of orchestrating serious violence against his officers.

August 4, 2007

This article appeared first in the August 3, 2007 edition of the Irish News.

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