Former Blanket   commentator, DR JOHN COULTER, maintains that loyalism must not react   violently to the dissident republican terror agenda, but must also re-engage   the political process by joining or merging with mainstream Unionist parties.

 The loyalist community must NEVER, Never, never (to quote   a phrase from Ian Paisley senior in 1985) ever play the dissident republican   game and return the serve by unleashing a rival dissident loyalist movement.

The real   challenge facing the loyalist community is the need to re-engage politically   within mainstream Unionism, not prepare for a new armed conflict with a   significant, but unrepresentative, faction of the broad republican family.

This is not to   ignore the fact that the ‘drip, drip’ method of republican dissidents is   becoming an increasing irritation in the Protestant community.

The murder of   prison officer David Black and the desecration of the village war memorial in   Glenavy, Co Antrim, has served to test loyalist resolve to the extreme.

Unlike the   Provisional republican movement, the rival dissident republican movement   cannot claim widespread support across the majority of working class   nationalist heartlands which spawned Provisional Sinn Fein.

Dissident   republicans are largely confined to the Three L’s locations – Lurgan,   Londonderry and the Lower Falls. They have been branded as ‘traitors’ by   Stormont deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, himself a former senior   PIRA commander in Londonderry.

The republican   dissidents face the added barriers of a flow of information to the security   forces in Northern Ireland from within the nationalist community, as well as   joint security initiatives against dissidents on both sides of the border.

Unlike the Provo   and INLA campaigns during the Troubles, republican terrorists can no longer   fully rely on the South of Ireland being a safe haven from which to launch a   border campaign, or run to after committing attacks.

On a more   sinister note, from my own interviews with dissident republicans, it is clear   that while there are limited pockets of support in Northern Ireland, the   dissidents do want to increase their profile in the Republic both in terms of   numbers and influence on attacks in Ulster.

This is   especially the case since the death of leading Real IRA commander Alan Ryan   in Dublin. It is clear that dissident republicans in the South of Ireland are   feeling the pressure of the electoral successes of Provisional Sinn Fein   since party president Gerry Adams left his West Belfast Westminster bolthole   and became a TD for the Louth constituency.

In the last Dail   general election, the Adams agenda saw Sinn Fein produce one of its best   returns since the 1919 General Election when it won the majority of Southern   Irish seats when the entire island was part of the British Empire.

If Adams can keep   the Provisional Sinn Fein bandwagon on track, the movement may be in a   position after the next Dail poll that it will be seriously knocking on the   door of becoming a minority partner in a coalition government in Dublin.

Imagine how the   dissident republican position would become even more isolated with Martin   McGuinness as deputy First Minister in Stormont and Gerry Adams as Deputy   Prime Minister in the Dail? Essentially, the dissident republican movement is   incapable of responding politically.

Dissident   republicans will want to play their hand by developing a so-called Southern   Command in the same way as the Provisional IRA operated a Northern and   Southern Command terrorist structure.

This strategy was hinted at in an exclusive   interview with a source in the dissident republican faction, Oglaigh na   hEireann (ONH).

Ironically, ONH   is not one of the dissident factions which has joined forces to form the   so-called New IRA. The New IRA is composed of the Real IRA, Republican Action   Against Drugs, and independent republican terrorists. The Continuity IRA has   also remained outside of the New IRA fold.

Terrorists from Southern Ireland   seem to be having a greater say in the running of the overall dissident   republican movement since the killing earlier of Ryan.

He was “pretty   high up the organisation, a big mover and well thought off by his comrades”,   according to my well-placed Northern Ireland source in Oglaigh na hEireann.

My source – who has given me   interviews in the past about ONH activities – was adamant that negative media   coverage of 32-year-old Ryan being some kind of gangster “could not be   further from the truth”.

The source maintains that the   former Londonderry-based republican always wanted to use his Real IRA unit to   strike at Northern Ireland, and Mr Black’s murder was merely his successors   carrying out his wishes.

The source added: “I knew   Alan from when he was 17. He joined the Fianna of Republican Sinn Fein and   then went to the Real IRA. He left behind a tight group in North Dublin.

“He was always well dressed.   That was the way he was brought up and it’s not a crime to be well dressed.   Everyone who knew him was very impressed by him and saw him as honest and   charismatic.

“The prison officer was   killed out of respect for Alan.” ONH members came to the Republic from the North to give support to the   North Dublin Real IRA, the source stressed.

“Ryan was certainly very prominent in the   Real IRA and would have had a big say in their strategy.”

The source said the murder would act as a   “springboard” to launch dissident republican activity not just in Dublin, but   right across the republic, adding that the level of support was seen by the   attendance at Ryan’s funeral.

Asked if there would be reprisals for   Ryan’s murder, my source said: “I would be amazed if that did not happen. It   is bound to happen. And it may come against the Crown forces.”

The killing of prison officer Black is   more evidence of the dissidents’ drip-drip method of terrorism rather than   the Provisionals’ previous long-war sustained strategy.

The dissident strategy is clearly   two-fold. Firstly, embarrass mainstream republicans by proving that a   military campaign against Britain and Unionism is still viable, and secondly,   try and provoke a violent reaction from a section of loyalism.

But loyalism must hold the line in its   community and not return the serve. Loyalism’s central focus must be to   re-engage the two-thirds of working class Protestants who have abandoned the   ballot box.

Perhaps the strategy should be that if   mainstream Unionist parties will not come to loyalists, then loyalist should   join the mainstream parties – especially the ruling DUP – and influence   Unionism from within.

Some bitter medicine which loyalism must   swallow is that the Ulster Democratic Party experiment has run its course   since Gary McMichael’s days in the Northern Ireland Forum for Political   Dialogue, and the Progressive Unionist Party has lost considerable ground   since it clinched two MLAs in the 1998 Assembly poll.

Former UDP councilor Frank McCoubrey has   taken the very courageous and wise step of entering mainstream Unionism by   joining the DUP. Other elected representatives from loyalist parties should   consider likewise.

The hard reality is that the loyalist   working classes can no longer afford to sit about and wait for the mainstream   Unionist parties to come to them. Working class Protestants must take the   initiative and join mainstream Unionist parties.

In the meantime, the DUP especially must   dismiss any talk coming from working class loyalism as communism under   another name. It must confine to the dustbin of history any views that the   PUP is some kind of ‘Shankill Soviet’.

Whatever view is taken of loyalists   joining the DUP or UUP, the key factor is that loyalism must be brought in from   the political cold.





  1. Charlie Freel

    You got it right at the start of your article John, Never, Never, Never, we have already been there, done it and paid the price. Working Class Loyalists must never again allow themselves to be used as expendable cannon fodder, by the professional political opportunists, of the DUP. What we are seeing now from militant republicanism, is the fullfillment of Danny Morrisons dream, IE, an attempt to achieve a united Ireland by the ballot box of the provisional IRA in one hand and the armalite of their so-called IRA dissident comrades, in the other hand. John is of course right in his assertion that both the PUP and the Ulster Democratic Party, are going nowhere politically as individual parties, mainly because they cancel each other out and nullify the the voice of Working Class Loyalism, thereby awarding the Grand old Duke of Yorkers a free passage to Stormont and a share out of the plunder, with their provisional IRA partners. I believe that the PUP and the Ulster Democratic Party, need to merge and unite into one Loyalist Working Class party, to prepare for the ultimate defence of Loyalist Working Class Ulster, against the united forces of militant Irish republicanism, and the self-gain professional political opportunists of the DUP. As a mark of respect for the original United Ulster Volunteers of 1912, this new United Loyalist Working Class party could be called the “Ulsters Voice First” party and its aims would be self- explainatary within its name.