The UDA will not be decommissioning its weapons. So much for all the fanfare.
"They are not the UDA's guns," said 'Brigadier' Jackie McDonald. "They are the people's guns."
Well, the people will be happy to know that, I am sure.
"The UDA is not going away," he said.
More joy for the people. McDonald said 90% of the loyalist community is against the UDA giving up its guns. The people's guns.
Hold on. In what sense are these guns communally-owned?
Nobody elected McDonald or any of the rest of the 'Brigadiers' or mandated them to amass their arsenal of weapons. How does the UDA know the people want it to hold onto them? Nobody carried out a poll.
The vile Kenny McClinton was hauled out to comment. He shot dead two men during what was known as 'Paisley's strike' in 1977. This was our now first minister's attempt to recreate the success of the Ulster Worker's Strike in 1974 in wrecking progress towards power-sharing. (When it found out that one of the men McClinton murdered was a Protestant, the UDA sent a tenner in the post to his widow. She was appalled.)
McClinton became a born again pastor and boasted of baptising a repentant Basher Bates of the Shankill Butchers gang in a prison bathtub. He later became a stalwart of the Orange Order's Drumcree protests and gave the benefit of his political wisdom to people like Billy Wright and Swinger Fulton. He presided over an act of LVF decommissioning. Then the LVF went on killing.
The UDA said it was disbanding the Ulster Freedom Fighters. This was the nom de guerre chosen to create the illusion that the UDA was not itself involved in sectarian assassinations. Four hundred or so murders after its formation in 1971, the UDA was proscribed only in 1992. Its ceasefire, two years later, was followed by more killings.
McDonald made no reference to the future of the Red Hand Defenders, the cover name chosen in more recent years for murders carried out by combinations of loyalists drawn mainly from the LVF and the UDA.
There was the usual rehearsal of grievance. Loyalists had been damned and demonised and denigrated and treated as second-class citizens. Loyalists had never been in this for money – scorn was poured on social development minister Margaret Ritchie for thinking she could bribe it. However, it would be looking for its fair share of 'resources'.
Interesting that the UDA chose to make its announcement at a Remembrance Day ceremony. Much to the embarrassment of the British establishment and to the disgust of many families of ex-service men and women, loyalists insist they have a right to be seen as part of the security forces.
There is still a great deal that we need to know about that relationship and the relationship between loyalists and the mainstream unionist parties. A propos of which, the late David Ervine memorably noted of his UVF days: "We knew the colour of their wallpaper."
Reg Empey of the UUP belatedly admitted regret about his Vanguard days. Paisley seemingly has no such regrets.
There is no use Ian Paisley jnr making scathing remarks about the UDA as if his father and his father's party never gave loyalist paramilitaries any encouragement. Unionists have a responsibility towards these abandoned armies still clinging to their guns.
Loyalists were led to believe that they were 'the people'. The DUP has moved on but it has offered no new outlook to working-class Protestants to replace the still-under-siege mentality which underlay McDonald's weekend statement. The UDA was still needed, he said, because of the threat from dissident republicans.
McDonald's instruction to his cohorts that there must be an end to criminality must be welcomed. However, we have a right to be sceptical. The UDA has a long record of claiming it has cleaned up its act and then dealing with outrageous incidents which prove otherwise by blaming breakaway factions. Have we seen an end to feuds?
McDonald didn't say.
"If you can't shoot them, shop them," was his instruction on drug dealers. (Pity about that "if".) Sadly, wherever this leads, it is too late for young Dean Clarke. The 16-year-old from Tiger's Bay who hanged himself and was buried last week. He had taken drugs sold to him, according to his mother, by the UDA. And what were the freedom fighters offering their young? Horse tranquillisers.
The people's army? I don't think so.