The Sicilianisation of Ulster
IH SEMTEX iS the most powerful weapon in the IRA armoury, then semantics must surely rank as Sinn Fein's principal means of offense. Ferdinand de Saussure himself would have been mightily impressed at the way sign and signified have become uncoupled in such concepts as "peace", "ceasefire" and "paramilitary".
It is the meaning of this last word which Sinn Fein has done its best to distort. Martin McGuinness has called the Royal Ulster Constabulary "the most discredited paramilitary group in the whole of western Europe". In doing so, McGuinness seeks to convince us that the RUC is little different from the IRA: both are as (il)legitimate as each other, each the mirror image of its own, two sides of the war between Britain and Ireland.
The facts do not bear this out. Of the 3,300 killed in the Troubles since 1969, 1.5 per cent have lost their lives at the hand of the RUC; over 83 per cent by what normal people would call paramilitaries. For all its faults — and the RUC has them — for the last 30 years this force has not been found bashing people with baseball bats, exiling people from Northern Ireland or blowing up parts of London, Dublin and Belfast.
Republicans (and Loyalists) claim they have to assume the role of law enforcers as there is a policing vacuum in many parts of Ulster; that the RUC is a sectarian force. A self-fulfilling prophecy if ever there was one, considering the way Catholics who join the RUC (like black soldiers in the British army) are deliberately intimidated or murdered. It is no coincidence that since the first IRA ceasefire the amount of Catholics applying to join the force has doubled to over 22 per cent.
If Northern Ireland was perfect, this should stand at around 40 per cent, though it does reveal that the RUC is not the force widely despised by Catholics that Sinn Fein would have Chris Patten believe.
No, in another one of its semantic attacks, Sinn Fein would have us believe, in that time honoured chant, that "SS=RUC". If the SS had been eight per cent Jewish, maybe such an analogy would hold. The fact that Loyalist rioters in Belfast and Portadown have chanted this at the RUC also seems to deflate the illusion that the force is merely the respectable wing of the UVF. That the last RUC officer to be killed was a Catholic, and his killers, the Protestant Red Hand Defenders, again contradicts this simplistic view.
DAVID TRIMBLE has intimated that the final draft of the Patten report will allow "in practice" paramilitaries to become involved in policing their own areas. Even if we do have this reformed Northern Ireland Police Force, will this satisfy Republicans? Has the IRA fought for 30 years merely to get a change of acronyms in a Six County force? No. Sinn Fein are not interested in justice or law and order; they are sickly romantics wedded to the abstract notion of a united Ireland, a goal with which an inexpendible amount of blood may be shed to attain. If this represents another move to buy off the IRA for a while, it will not work: for as long as you pay the Danegeld you will never be rid of the Dane. If Patten has recommended the inclusion of terrorists in the police force, it is the people of Northern Ireland who will pay. Our Prime Minister endlessly reminds us that everything that comes from this peace process is for "the children"; but it is the kids, the 14 and 15-year-olds beaten or exiled, who are now suffering for the Sicilianisation of Ulster.