Israel/Palestine: The Politics of a Two-State Solution

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Monday, April 22, 2013

Loyalist paramilitaries demonstrate their strength

East Belfast witnessed on Saturday a parade by some 10,000 commemorators of the centenary of the founding of the original Ulster Volunteer Force in 1913. Over thirty flute, fife and drum bands marched in the parade along with those in period costumes dressed as soldiers and nurses of the UVF. This is part of the centenary decade of commemorations dealing with the creation of Northern Ireland as a province within the United Kingdom separate from the rest of Ireland. At the ceremony the granddaughter of James Craig aka Lord Craigavon, the first prime minister of Northern Ireland, spoke as did Billy Hutchinson, a former double-murderer, loyalist prisoner and present leader of the Progressive Unionist Party, which has a single member in the Assembly. Click here and here for stories on the parade. The parade seems to have been also intended as a show of force by the modern-day Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), a terrorist group founded in 1966 and the main loyalist paramilitary organization during The Troubles.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland is said to have in custody a former UVF member , Gary Haggarty, who served for two decades as a key member of the organization. It is planning a "supergrass" trial like those that racked the province in the 1980s as members of various paramilitary organizations fingered their former colleagues in exchange for leniency in sentencing. Finally the guilty judgements were quashed as a judge found the testimony of the various repentant terrorists to not be  credible. There is speculation that the parade was another demonstration on top of the flag protests that dogged the province this winter of the power of the UVF. It is meant as a warning that if the PSNI and the courts go forward to prosecute members of the present-day UVF the organization will paralysis the province again. 

Meanwhile there is controversy over the plan to transform the former Maze Prison outside of Belfast into a Conflict Resolution Centre that will serve as a museum or shrine, depending on whom is asked, to the former prisoners incarcerated there over a quarter century. Here  Newsletter columnist Alex Kane writes about the concept of victims and how they have been left out of the peace process. Here a journalist interviews loyalists in favor of the Conflict Resolution Centre concept revealing how Sinn Fein built support for the project by coopting loyalists.

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