30 September 2005

Has anything changed in Loyalism?


As we recall the carnage of the UVF of 1975, Andrea McKernon wonders why
nothing is being done about the violence and brutality which still surroundS us

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(BBC photo)

This Sunday recalls one of the darkest days of the conflict when the UVF embarked on a sectarian murder campaign in 1975 that would end in tragedy for many families.
Within 24 hours, 11 people were dead and a twelfth died later in the month.
The outrages led to the banning of the UVF, which had been legalised by the British administration – to the anger and disbelief of nationalists – a year before.
Some 30 years down the line the UVF is now engaged in a bloody battle for supremacy with the LVF for drugs and turf that has led to the murders of five men in recent months. It’s difficult to see what has changed in the intervening decades.
On October 2, 1975 years ago the UVF death squads unleashed their blood thirsty gangs killing six Catholics from North Belfast.
The bloodshed would be a precursor to the killing spree of the Butchers from the mid 1970s – the most notorious killings that day were led by UVF leader and Shankill Butcher Lenny Murphy.
British Secretary of State Peter Hain recently announced that the 11-year UVF ceasefire was defunct after members fired shots at the PSNI after the banning of the Orange Order’s Springfield Road march earlier in September. It seems nothing has changed in Loyalism.
The group is still intent on killing, dealing drugs and extortion and as one fierce opponent of the Mount Vernon UVF Raymond McCord asked recently, why are the UVF still here?
If we look back at Merlyn Rees who had legalised the paramilitary gang in 1974, the legalisation was a failed attempt to get the UVF to engage on a political path.
How uncannily familiar it all sounds now.
The UVF led a spate of bombings and shootings that day that caused carnage across the North.
Some 16 bombs went off, with 13 planted by the UVF. Four UVF men died when a bomb they were transporting exploded.
Frances Donnelly, 35, and her sister Marie McGrattan, 47, were Catholics who worked in their father’s wholesale wine and spirits business at Millfield.
Frances Donnelly lived in Strathmore Park and her sister lived at Thirlmere Gardens.
The UVF gang murdered the sisters after forcing them to kneel on the floor of the office before shooting them in the back of the head.
Two more Catholic workers were shot that day. Gerard Grogan was an 18-year-old storeman who was killed in a bottling store.
Thomas Osborne, 18, from Churchill Street died on October 23 as a result of his injuries from the October 2 attack.
The same day Ardoyne photographer Thomas Murphy was killed when the UVF entered his photographic studio on Carlisle Circus and shot him.
A bomb was also planted in the 29-year-old’s premises, which exploded.
The UVF also struck in the Co Antrim town of Aldergrove at the Catholic owned McKenna’s bar, killing 35-year-old John Stewart.
Also killed that day was a 37-year-old Protestant woman from Killyleagh in a UVF bomb blast at a Catholic owned bar in the Co Down village.
As the IRA decommissioned its weapons in the wake of its historic announcement in July to stand down all units, the UVF is still bent on killing and destruction. With the victims of one day in its bloody past remembered by heartbroken families this week, when are the UVF and other loyalist and republican groupings going to embrace the peace so desperately desired by all the people of this island?
And when is the British establishment going to get tough with the hard men of all hues of loyalism?

Journalist:: Andrea McKernon

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