31 January 1973
On 31 January 1973, the Daily Telegraph quoted Ulster Defence Association leader Tommy Herron admitting that ‘it is futile for us to try to stop them,’ referring to murders by Protestant loyalists. He explained that this was because ‘the renewed bombing onslaught by the Republican rebels is a provocation to them (and) they (Protestant extremists) cannot keep turning the other cheek.’1 That same day UDA loyalists murdered a fourteen year old boy and a seventeen year old motor mechanic, only two days after they had killed a fifteen year old boy and a 23 year old man and just a day before a UDA unit attacked a bus transporting building contractors in East Belfast, with a grenade killing the 47 year old driver.
Herron admitted in an interview with the same newspaper that the UDA was illegally importing and stockpiling hundreds of AK-47s automatic rifles. This should have been seen as another warning of its obvious terror links by the British government, but despite such uncompromising declarations and repeated acts of indiscriminate violence, the UDA remained legal, while on the other hand membership of the Catholic nationalist IRA had long been illegal. The only seeming reason for the difference was that the UDA sought to maintain British rule of Northern Ireland, while the IRA sought to end it.2
- Margaret Urwin, A State in Denial: British Collaboration With Loyalist Paramilitaries, Mercier Press, Cork, 2016, p. 73.
- Margaret Urwin, A State in Denial: British Collaboration With Loyalist Paramilitaries, Mercier Press, Cork, 2016, p. 73 and Owen Bowcott, “Former General Sued Over Death of Catholic Minibus Driver During Troubles,” the Guardian, 27 April 2015 https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/apr/27/northern-ireland-general-sued-death-catholic-troubles-heenan-kitson
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