On 11 November the UDA announced that it was going to 'stand down' its alter-ego, the Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF). The irony of this was not lost on everyone – as Maurice Hayes pointed out, during the long years of its terrorist murder campaign the UDA always denied that the UFF was actually part of the same organisation. Yet now, strangely, the UDA can 'stand it down'!
However, 'standing down' the UFF means precisely nothing. The guns that killed so many people will be kept – they are, according to gang leader Jackie McDonald, the "people's guns". Here's a suggestion, Jackie – let the legal representatives of 'the people' decide what should happen to them. Give the guns to any chosen representative of 'the people', a DUP MLA if you prefer, and let him or her do what is right. By claiming something as patently wrong and illegal as his 'people's guns' rubbish, McDonald is showing that he neither respects nor observes the rules of democracy. In other words, the UDA remains what it was before this false announcement – an armed illegal undemocratic murder gang.
What has changed? The UDA declared a ceasefire in 1994 – one it did not honour, of course. It expressed 'remorse' for having killed so many innocent people, and then went on to kill more. It claimed to be a 'defence' organisation, but was really just a gang of drug-pushing criminals and murderers. Now it claims to have 'stood down' its sectarian murder identity, but refuses to disarm! It now says that people should obey the law and inform the PSNI about drug dealers, yet as everyone knows, it is the UDA itself who deals the drugs. And if the UDA respect the law, then they cannot cherry pick which laws they will obey – they must inform the PSNI about the guns as well as the drugs.
This announcement is a pathetic non-event. The UDA remain unchanged, and should be hunted down and imprisoned by the forces of the state, with the explicit backing of all political parties, including the unionists.