Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Is the recent violence the UVF flexing their muscles?

The violence in East Belfast on Monday which led to gunfire has led to some serious questions.

Yesterday in the Northern Ireland Assembly Alex Maskey (Sinn Féin) opened the Matter of the Day debate stating that this was a UVF (Ulster Volunteer Force) attack on the nationalist Short Strand. This was not disputed by either of the Unionist speakers who spoke after him. There was universal condemnation of the violence and support for the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) as they had to deal with the aftermath: last night there was tension in the area once more.

If it was the UVF what were they trying to do? Mark Devenport uses the term flexing their muscles, but to what end? Surely this attempt to show a flexing of muscles is not what the people on the lower Newtownards Road want? Many of them are happy with the peaceful way people can go about it that part of Belfast with out fear, intimidation and a heavily armed policing presence.

When you look at how the assaults by dissident republican groups are universally condemned by leaders and the people the flexing of such muscles will only have a negative effect.

Another question is where did the guns come from? It is alleged that shots were fired from both sides, yet both the IRA and UVF are supposed to have completely decommissioned their weapons as part of the Belfast Agreement, so where have guns come from to get used in this way on Monday? Were they pre-existent guns that had somehow slipped by the decommissioning observers, or are they freshly acquired? If the former that is a disgrace and we need to know why some were being held back and not declared. If the latter we have a serious issue.

If paramilitaries on both sides are using the peace to stockpile weapons once more they are really out of step with a shared future that Northern Ireland is craving. As witnessed on Monday morning when celebrating a mutual success (with only minor arguments over the flag that Rory used to celebrate his victory). No doubt a forensics and ballistics teams are doing test on the bullets that were fired to find out just what weapons were used and to try and ascertain if they had been used before.

However, witnessing the Twittersphere yesterday people don't want the escalation that was witnessed. They don't want another summer of riot and counter riot. They want to get on with living side by side in peace and harmony.

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