“The Peace is harder to win than the War” – By Brian Rowan 

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Why this inclination to spit on everything the loyalists try to do?

Spit, contempt, anger and ridicule.

We see it and hear it in some of the responses to the move by the Red Hand Commando to achieve “deproscription”.

It made that application to the Home Secretary  which has now been referred to the Northern Ireland Office.

Any policing and intelligence assessment of that application was always going to happen here.

Deproscription, if achieved, would mean the legalisation of the Red Hand Commando title.

It would not wipe the slate clean in terms of that organisation’s involvement in the conflict period. It is not an amnesty.

So, why not just disband, go away, vanish?

These have been some of the responses to this latest development.




Just read the 2015 intelligence assessment of the ceasefire organisations.

Not one has disbanded. Not the UVF, the UDA or the Red Hand Commando – not the IRA.

There may no longer be ‘war’-type leaderships, but all retain a structure of some description.

One of the statements revealing the decision of the Red Hand Commando to apply to be removed from the list of UK proscribed organisations, includes the following sentence: “It is many years since the RHC was engaged in violent or criminal activity.”




Well that is about to be tested.

In making this application, the loyalist organisation has opened itself up to the most detailed of policing and intelligence assessments.

What will they reveal?

We are at the start of some process, nowhere near the end, nowhere near a decision.

Might other organisations, as suggested in a statement from the Loyalist Communities Council, make similar applications in the future?

Only if they want that same policing and intelligence scrutiny.

There are members of these organisations who won’t want to be subjected to such assessment.

This Red Hand Commando application is something of a test case. It may change nothing.

It may well be rejected, but the intelligence assessment of the organisation will be read to see how it compares with what was said in those statements released on Tuesday.

Should any organisational title linked to the conflict period be legalised before there is a process on the past?

It is another question – another part of this debate.

There is no simple answer, but this many years after the ceasefires, we know that the magic wand of disbandment does not exist.

All of these organisations are still out there in some shape or form.

They haven’t gone away.


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About Author

Brian Rowan

Brian Rowan is a journalist/author. A former BBC correspondent in Belfast, four times he has been a category winner in the Northern Ireland Press and Broadcast Awards. He is the author of several books on the peace process. His latest book (published by Merrion Press) POLITICAL PURGATORY – the battle to save Stormont and the play for a New Ireland is now available at www.merrionpress.ie


  1. They haven’t gone away. They, the many groupings and affiliations of paramilitaries still operate, it’s a lifestyle. I agree that the type of response about this move by the RHC has been generally negative – but thats what tends to happen here. But why not disband? Are they simply seeking some respectability, and is their request genuine or simply inappropriate – especially to their victims. Terror group and paramilitary names shouldn’t be legal – many were involved in illegality. If they are wholly genuine in trying to work towards a better society they can do that without operating under a legal name.

  2. Not really true Brian. Events here were not really as elsewhere where conflict resulted from the failure of politics.
    Basically the n.o.I/ N.I/6 counties whatever you wish to call it was never a Democracy. We all know well it was a State where a majority was created specifically to allow the State to exist. No chicken and egg here – it spontaneous existence.
    Yet the fact that a Minority was created is never really examined in full.
    The UK created a state, it had a majority, it was deemed a Democracy with all the unalterable rights normal, naturally-formed Democratic entities have. Thus the created minority vanished, with all their individual, societal, cultural and Democratic rights. Puff! They were gone.

    This left the Partitioned Nationalist generation and they had been defeated and gutted.
    They were practically unheard of again for the next 50yrs.
    From late 60s things became different. And now as demographics bite deeply we are back to the core of the problem! The UK and their illusion of a Democratic state here.
    For at the moment its the UK’s wish to maintain this fable as a truth. Repeat – for the moment!

    The Peace is now a war. The Victims are a war. The culture is a war. The history is war. The future is now a war.
    And The Treaty – which no Nationalist in the north acknowledged nor welcomed as a solution – must be re-visited.
    Unionist illusion of this place being sacrosanct has no place to play in finding a real Democracy and a practical solution to ALL our problems.
    It has always been a war and always will be until all the people in the 6 Counties come up with a new creative way to live together. GFA is no more that than 1921 Partition was.

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