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Five-step programme to peace if UDA is genuine

(Denis Bradley, Irish News)

When people stop returning your phone calls, you know you are in trouble.

That's the way it is with most of life but even more so in the world of politics.

People are not returning calls to the UDA at the moment. You would need to have been on holidays the whole of the summer not to notice the chilly air that has blown in the direction of the UDA.

Margaret Ritchie, the minister who holds the bag of money that has been promised, has given them 60 days to prove their worthiness; otherwise big money is going to be withheld from community projects with which they have a strong association. The chief constable says he wouldn't give them 50p on their performance. That is due in no short measure to the possibility that they had some, if not strong, involvement in the shooting and injuring of a police officer.

In one of their heartlands, a man was tied to a lamppost, tarred and feathered. This was done at the behest of the community and against the wishes of the UDA, or so we are told.

The difficulty with that is that no-one believes them.

All of this resulted in a stream of articles in this newspaper having a real 'go' at the organisation. The UDA doesn't seem to have too many friends at this moment.

The strange thing is that not so long ago the atmosphere was different and the phone lines were busy.

The UDA was making a somewhat torturous journey from paramilitary to mainstream community development and politics.

Two governments, a president and a number of political parties could be counted as friends on this journey.

The DUP were not particularly helpful and the SDLP were sceptical and sometimes hostile to the whole project of transformation. Sinn Féin was a bit of one thing in public and a bit of something else in private. But all that could be lived with.

Internal factions were more difficult. The leadership, on a few occasions, had to call a spade a spade and describe some of the behaviour of those they expelled as extortion and criminality.

That was the shakiest part of the process but despite its slowness it appeared to be going in the right direction

And then it all blew up.

So, now we know the problem but what about the solution? Well, if they want a solution, they have to move through a number of stages and quickly.

They can first of all imagine all the people they hate and all the ones who got them into these difficulties.

They can imagine putting their hands around their necks and squeezing tightly.

When they have got that out of their system they can move into the second stage, which could loosely be described as the self-pity stage.

This is where they outline to themselves all the difficulties they will have in doing all the things people are demanding.

They will have a few days to moan to themselves and others that it is all very unfair and that they are not getting the recognition that they deserve for all the progress they have made.

And when all that is done they can move into the real world where the politics are playing. It is at that stage that they have to jump a few paces ahead of the baying pack.

They do that by indicating that they will be working with the decommissioning body to get rid of whatever weapons they have left. They will also have to announce that they will be holding a meeting of all of the so-called brigadiers, at which a resolution will be passed to wind up the organisation.

What will remain will be a commemorative organisation that will look after graves and hold annual memorial services.

They will have to put a time-frame on these intentions.

Then they have to pick a trusted intermediary to go up the hill to our new political executive to negotiate a few weeks slack to put all this in place.

This person will plead to keep the money in place to help the communities that spawned and supported them through our 30 years of conflict and violence.

Anything less will mean they will just dig a big hole even bigger.

The only contribution left to the UDA is to make sure that the loyalist people get as much help as possible in building communities that nurture healthy people who strive for a healthy future.

September 8, 2007

This article appeared first in the September 7, 2007 edition of the Irish News.

This article appears thanks to the Irish News. Subscribe to the Irish News