UVF VICINA ALL’ABBANDONO DELLA LOTTA ARMATA
A svelare il proprio sentore è il reverendo Chris Hudson tra gli ‘amici critici’ scelti dall’UVF come tramite nel raggiungimento della fine della lotta armata
Potrebbe essere una questione di poco tempo. Le parole del reverendo Chris Hudson lasciano trasparire una prossimo annuncio dell’Ulster Volunteer Force, di cessata ostilità.
E’ stato un anno molto negativo per il gruppo paramilitare lealista, sia dal punto di vista di pubbliche relazioni sia per il can can smosso dall’efferato omicidio di Bobby Moffett.
Al centro del processo un attivista per la pace di Dublino, Ministro Presbiteriano non firmatario nonchè cappellano cristiano non ufficiale per la comunità gay dell’Ulster. Chris Hudson per l’appunto.
Sul suo ruolo nel contribuire allo scioglimento dell’UVF quale gruppo terroristico, Hudson ha dichiarato: “Vogliono l’aiuto di alcune persone che chiamano i loro ‘amici critici’. Può sembrare un termine bizzarro, ma loro vedono le persone come me, come qualcuno che conoscono dal 1993, e che non ha mai provato a rivoltare tutto quello che hanno detto”.
“Li ho ascoltati con attenzione e sono stato onesto con loro. Il mio istinto mi dice che stanno per farlo. Sono preoccupato, sono preoccupato perché avevo smesso di credere in loro, ma nel corso dei miei recenti rapporti con loro ho visto una coesione e una determinazione tra le loro file per arrivare a questo finale di partita “.
Hudson poi parla di una riunioni a cui ha partecipato a Belfast e che ha visto la presenza di decine di membri dell’UVF che si stanno impegnado a discutere punto per punto quale sarà il futuro dell’organizzazione una volta cessata l’attività terroristica. Pare scontato che ci saranno coloro che opteranno per una scissione all’interno del gruppo, delle frange contrarie alla cessazione delle ostilità.
Egli ha anche rivelato che durante il suo ultimo icontro con l’UVF, la leadership ha ammesso che i repubblicani non hanno intenzione di attaccare i lealisti dell’Ulster in questa fase. Tuttavia, resta il timore che i repubblicani che si oppongono al cessate il fuoco potrebbe in futuro passare all’offensiva.
Hudson nel corso degli anni si è guadaganto la fiducia e il rispetto della UVF, oltre a quelle di una serie di importanti funzionari del governo irlandese.
Ma l’aspetto più singolare del lavoro di Hudson con l’UVF è il fatto che l’organizzazione paramilitare è stata responsabile della morte di uno dei suoi più cari amici, Frank O’Toole, una pop star irlandese con la Miami Showband. O’Toole e altri membri della band furono assassinati nel 1975 da un gruppo dell’UVF, dopo che il loro furgone venne fermato sulla via del ritorno da un concerto in Irlanda del Nord.
Chris Hudson tiene a mettere in chiaro che il suo lavoro nel processo verso lo scioglimento dell’UVF è destinato a impedire il ripetersi delle uccisioni del passato.
UVF plans to end paramilitary activity, says unlikely secret intermediary (The Guardian)
The Ulster Volunteer Force is to make a statement in the new year that it will no longer be a paramilitary force. A negotiator who has been asked to help the UVF dissolve has told the Guardian he expects the loyalist terror group to announce “very soon” that it is no longer an underground army.
The group is a proscribed organisation in the Republic of Ireland and a designated terrorist organisation in the United Kingdom.
This year has been a PR disaster for the UVF, with the leader of its political allies in the Progressive Unionist Party resigning. Dawn Purvis stood down from the PUP after the UVF murdered Belfast man Bobby Moffett on the Shankill Road in May.
There was public outrage over the killing and hundreds turned up at Moffett’s funeral in a mass act of defiance against the UVF.
Since then the UVF leadership has contacted a number of individuals known as “critical friends” whom the organisation has sought to help them wind down the paramilitary group for good.
At the centre of this process is a Dublin-born peace activist turned non-subscribing Presbyterian minister who is also the unofficial Christian chaplain for Ulster’s gay community.
The Rev Chris Hudson told the Guardian that he now believed the UVF leadership was serious about dismantling its paramilitary structures, seven months after the Moffett murder.
“I am confident that something major will happen. I would be very surprised if something tangible doesn’t take place very soon. Because it can’t just be said, it has to be done as proof that they are going out of existence as a military organisation.”
On his role in helping the UVF disband as a terror group, Hudson said: “They want some people whom they call their ‘critical friends’ to help them. It may be a bizarre term but they see people like me as someone they have known since 1993 who they think has never tried to spin anything they have said.
“I have listened carefully to them and I have been honest with them. My instinct tells me that they are going to do it. I am worried, I am worried because I did stop believing them, but in my recent dealings with them I saw a cohesiveness and a determination across their ranks to get to this endgame.”
Hudson said that he was taken to one meeting in Belfast recently where there were dozens of UVF members engaged in workshop-style meetings all discussing a single agenda – what they will do after the organisation is entirely disbanded.
He admitted, however, that the organisation’s leaders may not be able to bring everyone with them. Many living in working class loyalist areas are sceptical about the UVF dissolving and suspect that some of its members cling on to the organisation to shore up their power in their communities.
“When you are moving forward waving a white flag for peace it would be better if everyone in your ranks were following you.
“But you have to realise there will be some who for reasons of selfish interests, or even being unable to deal with a world beyond the UVF, will not want to let go.
“Those people will simply have to be left behind and they know this; the UVF leadership know there is no logical reason why they should be still in any way active.”
He also revealed that during his latest discussions with the UVF, its leadership accepted that the dissident republicans do not want to attack Ulster loyalists at this stage. However, he said there was a residual fear that the anti-ceasefire republicans might in future go on the offensive against loyalists.
Hudson has a track record in his secret talks with the UVF from the early 1990s.
In 1993 he became a clandestine link between the UVF and the Irish government.
Through Hudson the loyalists got assurances from Dublin that the Irish state had no interest in “ganging up” on unionism in a pan-nationalist front with Sinn Fein and the SDLP in the north.
The former trade unionist was later given an MBE for his work in campaigning against IRA attacks on the Dublin to Belfast railway and his role in opening a dialogue between the UVF and the Irish government.
Despite an upsurge in dissident republican violence in 2010 both the UVF and the larger Ulster Defence Association have insisted they will not be provoked into going back to armed campaigns.
• Several car bombs in Dublin and Monaghan bombs in 1974, which killed 33 civilians and wounded almost 300.
• The Shankill Butchers, a unit of the UVF on Belfast’s Shankill Road tortured and killed innocent Catholics picked up at night in the city. The reign of terror ended in 1979 with the capture of most of the gang; its leader, Lenny Murphy, was shot dead three years later by the IRA, having been set up for assassination by a rival loyalist, UDA extortionist Jim Craig.
• Loughinisland massacre in 1994, when the UVF shot dead six men in a bar while watching Ireland’s opening World Cup game; one was aged 87, the oldest victim of the Troubles.
The go-between Chris Hudson has been an unusual choice as secret go-between to the Irish government and the Ulster Volunteer Force. Although from a republican family with links to the old IRA, he made it his mission to understand and explain the Ulster loyalist perspective while remaining opposed to its violent campaigns.
A former Dublin trade unionist, he was introduced to the late David Ervine, an advocate of the peace process and one of the key thinkers in the loyalist terror group, in 1993. They established a strong personal relationship and agreed to open up a clandestine dialogue with the Irish government, to assure the loyalists that there would be no ganging up on Unionists in any pan-nationalist front.
Hudson won the trust and respect of the UVF and a number of key Irish government officials through that process.
Perhaps, however, the most unusual aspect of Hudson’s work with the UVF is the fact that the organisation was responsible for the death of one of his friends. In the 1970s Hudson was close to Fran O’Toole, an Irish pop star with the Miami Showband. O’Toole and other band members were murdered by a UVF unit in 1975 after their van was stopped on the way back from a gig in Northern Ireland.
Hudson often reminds his UVF contacts that among the hundreds they killed during the Troubles was one of his closest friends. And he has also often made it clear that his work is intended to prevent a repetition of the past killing.
- UVF plans to end paramilitary activity, says unlikely secret intermediary (guardian.co.uk)
- UVF To End Paramilitary Activity – Again! (politics.ie)