Andersontown News, 4. October 2001,

Editorial "we say"

Hypocrisy grows by the day

Thereís an Alice-in-Wonderland feel to the current political scenario, and it seems that with each passing day things grow more bleakly surreal.

Consider if you will the spectacle of the PUPís David Ervine and Billy Hutchinson giving David Trimble the requisite number of signatures needed to allow his motion to exclude Sinn Fein to be heard in the assembly. Itís hard to know just who in this shameful and grubby episode comes out with the least credit.

Let us first of all remind ourselves that Messrs Ervine and Hutchinson are members of a party with direct links to the UVF. This is the same UVF which just a month ago tried to napalm daytrippers in Ballycastle during the Lammas Fair. And yet both stand up, and with perfectly straight faces, claim that Sinn Fein isnít fit to govern because it hasnít proved its commitment to non-violence in word or deed. Itís difficult to know whether to retch or guffaw in response to hypocrisy of such mind-boggling magnitude. Add to that the fact that Mr Ervine in the past has said that the UVF will not necessarily disarm even if the IRA does, and you find yourself starting to think that maybe the Mad Hatterís tea party wasnít that strange after all.

And what of Mr Trimble, that fearless opposer of paramilitarism in all its manifestations? Is he in the least bit discomfited by the fact that his motion to exclude Sinn Fein is to be heard because he won the support of the political wing of the UVF? No more discomfited than he was by seeing the PUPís Hugh Smyth take the UUP whip on Belfast City Council; no more discomfited than he was when members of his party left Stormont to travel to City Hall to vote for the UDPís Frank McCoubrey as Deputy Lord Mayor in the middle of a blood-soaked loyalist feud; no more discomfited than he was when he sat down with UVF and UDA goons in May 1974 to plot the downfall of a government; no more discomfited than when he originally walked through the gates of Stormont with the UDP and the PUP at his shoulder.

And just when you thought that things simply couldnít get any curiouser and curiouser, up pops British Secretary of State John Reid to tell us why it was that he wasnít going to declare the UDA ceasefire over. If we have heard him right (and he will surely let us know if we have not), he believes the UDA had been involved in widespread and orchestrated violence Ė ie, that they have indeed broken their ceasefire. But, acting on advice (not UDA advice, weíre now told), he believed that the UDA was going to stop misbehaving and therefore he was giving them a second chance. In a nutshell, then, here is the John Reid plan for peace in our time: paramilitaries who shoot and bomb and murder and maim shall not be deemed to have broken their ceasefires as long as they agree to stop for a bit.

In response to this priceless piece of political jiggery-pokery, all paramilitary groups may now presumably feel entitled to the same consideration. Should the IRA decide to launch a few mortars at Woodbourne Barracks, no censure will ensue so long as they promise not to do it again. Of course, we all know

This is nonsense. If the IRA was engaged in even a fraction of the violence that loyalists have been engaged in, then Sinn Feinís feet wouldnít touch the ground. There would be such a deafening outpouring of disapproval from unionists and the Irish and British media that Mr Reid would be forced to act. The only reason that the Secretary of State feels able to indulge in such fancy footwork a propos the loyalist paramilitaries is that he knows the response will be relatively muted. The Ardoyne debacle is allowed to continue because there is no pressure on the authorities to act Ė it is only nationalists, after all, who are getting it in the neck. No trade unions walk with the parents and children to school Ė it is left to the new Tory shadow Secretary of State, of all people, to embarrass the comrades on that score. The familiar peace train faces are nowhere to be seen as the bombs explode nightly and teenagers and schoolboys are gunned to death. No doves of peace are released to mark the murder of Martin OíHagan, no tens of thousands hold lit candles aloft at City Hall.

All of this we have seen so many times before; in its glaring absence now, it can be seen for the sickening and cynical hypocrisy that it was.