07 March 2006

Daily Ireland Editorial: Defeaning silence over death threat

Daily Ireland

Editor: Colin O’Carroll

The attack on a nationalist taxi driver in north Belfast on Saturday night and the subsequent threat telephoned to this newspaper a day later by a man claiming to represent the Red Hand Defenders, a flag-of-convenience for various loyalist killer gangs, is an extremely worrying development for the whole nationalist community.

Despite the death threat being directed at “former IRA prisoners”, the nationalist community knows that in reality this means anyone unlucky enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, including any Protestant mistaken for a Catholic.

The reason for this latest outrage from loyalism appears to be the recent raid on a loyalist bar in north Belfast during a UDA rehearsal for a ‘show of strength’, during which the PSNI fired teargas into the bar before storming it ‘SAS-style’ according to some witnesses. The reaction of loyalist paramilitarism to what they perceive as the temerity of any challenge to their gangsterism while they masquerade as protectors of their community has been typical.

What will be interesting now will be to observe the reaction of the British and Irish governments, the PSNI, the wider unionist community and last but not least, unionist politicians who purport to lead that community. So far that reaction has been less than reassuring to say the least.

Apart from some sweeping condemnation from DUP MP Nigel Dodds, the silence from others, particularly his party leader, who claims also to be the leader of unionism, has been deafening.

The PSNI has also been strangely silent about how it views this threat and how it plans to deal with it. For those with conspiracy theory mindsets, the thought arises as to why the raid on the Alexandra Bar was carried out in such a highly visible and gung-ho manner, if not to provoke a reaction and add even more pressure to the political process. The governments also have been staying schtum. One wonders if there would be such a calm response if this was a republican grouping threatening to go back to violence.

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