For people who claim to care so deeply about democracy and about the rule of law, Loyalists sure do like to undermine them at pivotal moments. There are clearly deep divides within the DUP, well…rather, massive gaping crevices (see the Grand Canyon as an example) and there is no way the DUP can hide or deny it this time. The way in which Arlene Foster was ousted in the coup against her recently was the start of all of this. It was all a secret which even Arlene herself didn’t see coming and recently has questioned whether there actually was a letter signed by 22 DUP MLAs and 4 MPs. Indeed when advised about the letter Arlene was told 22 MLAs had signed it, then later was told there were 21 signatures. Shady dealings some might say.
On the night that Edwin Poots was to be ratified as leader of the DUP, all hell broke loose within the party. Allegations of the UDA threatening members of Jeffrey Donaldson’s campaign team came to light as well as party unrest surrounding how Arlene Foster was ousted and ultimately disrespected by some within the party and there were also resignations with Doug Beattie, the new UUP leader revealing later that ex-DUP members were talking with them about joining the UUP. With that being the case, how many within the party actually knew about the coup against Arlene Foster? Not as many as some might think it would seem. In fact many of those who allegedly signed the letter sent to Arlene were MLAs and MPs and not so much the average member of the DUP. There are clearly those within the DUP who viewed Arlene Foster’s relationship with Michelle O’Neill, as rough as it was, to be too friendly and her recent voting history on the likes of Conversion Therapy as being too middle of the road. What is also clear, is that there were many within the DUP who supported Arlene Foster and happily followed her as their leader and were clearly blindsided by big names within the DUP and without.
Something tells me the UDA have been involved in this coup against Arlene Foster from the very start and I also have more than a slight suspicion that a certain new leader of the DUP was not only involved but was part and parcel of the deal to install a more hardline leader of Ulster Unionism. Let’s not forget the UDA has a history of undermining democracy and the Loyalist vote. In the 2019 General Election the UDA intervened to stop the UUP splitting the Loyalist and Unionist vote in North Belfast. Police were called in after a series of threatening messages were sent to UUP figures, including one which explicitly referred to a meeting involving a notorious UDA faction which told the party not to challenge Nigel Dodds. Loyalist terrorists threatening Unionists? Surely not? But the UDA has form in this and continues to do what they think is right to bring about their utopia which is obviously a Unionist state, which may not be what is right for the Loyalist people of the North.
As we know now, Nigel Dodds was beaten to the post in 2019 by John Finucane, who won by a substantial majority even though the UDA had intervened and threatened the UUP not to stand a candidate in North Belfast. Could the case also be that Jeffrey Donaldson failed to win the DUP leadership race because the UDA got involved? Could it be a case of – ‘We’ll get you in if you do as you’re told’ for the new leader? We’ll probably never know, but what we do know is the leadership race was so tight that Jeffrey Donaldson had a legitimate chance of winning and may well have done so had the UDA left well enough alone and let democracy run its course. That however, was clearly not within the UDA design for the DUP. What is also clear is who the UDA wanted installed as DUP leader and possibly the First Minister of the Northern Irish Executive.
This is why armed Loyalism must leave the stage. It undermines our democracy, it undermines Loyalism and it makes an utter mockery of the peace process in this country which people have spent blood, sweat and tears over. 23 years, dear reader – 23 years and Loyalist paramilitaries are showing they still run Unionism. These people are supposed to be gone, disappeared, vanished from the scene to facilitate the righteous cause of peace…and they dare to speak of “Sinn Fein/IRA.”