The £1-7 million Social Investment Fund(SIF)
Dear sweet suffering sassafras!(Again!!!!)
The world really is in anything but a state of grace . Are we all now prepared to accept any corruption or villainy? Has even taste died a death? Currently American politics are no more than a burlesque . Almost half the voting population favours a misogynist clown like Donald Trump as perfect potential for leading the most powerful country on the planet. Nearer home, racism reared its ugly head in the guise of the Brexit vote to leave the EU. If we cut to the quick of it there was essentially a fear of “the Other” driving Farage’s UKIP party.Even closer to home the standards have dropped even lower .We have twisted morality inside out in the quest for political power..
I’m finding myself agreeing with that conniption of tics, grimaces, dour drolleries and rampant negativity that is the public persona of TUV(True Unionist Voice) leader, Jim Allister.There’s a terrier-like aspect to his public personality, that setting aside his politics , (which I do not agree with), is wholly admirable ,in specific cases. This happens to be one of those cases. Curiously enough Sinn Fein are very quiet about this one at the moment and are notably absent from many similar television and radio debates of late, but Mr Allister is making hay with his arguments anyway.
It’s to do with this business concerning the investment of £1.7 million of taxpayers’ money in east Belfast and the robust defence of this action by the DUP’s (Democratic Unionist Party), Emma Pengally .These two were at it hammer and tongs, tussling on the airwaves as to the very morality and civic lawfullness of such a connection . The airwaves were alive with bile , just now.
This argument really concerns a still- illegal organisation (UDA)which has not moved on from its set position in some twenty years ,being handed a huge bag of cash , to suddenly transform them into good little boys, overnight. While the rest of society gets by in their daily life ,scrabbling from day -to- day to sustain themselves, paying the odd parking fine , working from light to dark, or dark to light, paying their bills …and crucially paying part of their hard-earned cash back to the government in taxes to keep the wheels of government and society running relatively smoothly, these individuals , who apparently have no “real “jobs of any description ,somehow appear to have survived very well on the backs of their community, and are now being gifted with even more cash from us .
We have arrived in a situation where almost twenty years after the Good Friday Agreement was signed ,to hopefully put an end to violence and provide a new start for everyone ,into a situation where the police cannot control whole areas because of para-military input and gangsterism. In these specific loyalist areas there is apparently little interest in producing a political class that might represent them in government ,so the DUP (Democratic Unionist Party) wish to hopefully gather that grouping within their own influence .The bottom line is that they reckon that the way forward is to keep these unrepentant gangsters in line by giving them control of money in the form of this huge “investment”. it sounds remarkably like paying off a ransom, to me . This payment is supposedly to allow them to stop being para-militaries and become bona fide social -workers of a sort , instead.Apparently unlike the rest of the population “security checks ” will not be required before they take up these spanking new jobs.
The dramatis personae in this particular play include a Who’s Who of unionism and loyalism , Some appear to have feathered their nests as part of what passes for the political process ,but others are apparently connected to the illegal para-military organisation which the police appear to have forgotten about and that is the source of their income. The various players in this soap-opera include DUP Councillor Sharon Skillen,UDA boss Jimmy Birch and his wife Caroline ,loyalist Dee Stitt, First Minister Arlene Foster; Drew Haire, Chairperson Charter NI and Caroline Birch, Project Manager . Emma Pengally whom the aforementioned Jim Allister braced on a radio programme , manned the moral barricades in defence of this handout, just now….
This Social Investment Fund (SIF) is apparently intended to assist some 300 unemployed , low-paid ,or low-skilled people to find employment. Only 300 specific people?….. you might ask. Who exactly would those particular 300 people be and will they have to pass through the same “security checks” that anyone else applying for any job in the modern world would have to pass through? I somehow doubt it.What they have been doing for these past twenty years is a mystery too to most working people .
From what anyone can gather from the media , the outlawed UDA has not gone away and is still actively involved in extortion and violence throughout the community .So, who in their great wisdom decided that such a group would be the perfect candidates to manage this project?
That choice appears to rest squarely in the hands of the DUP whose party leader is also the First Minister of Norneverland , Ireland. So there you have it in a nutshell .The head of the government is spending a huge chunk of our money on an illegal organisation, apparently to try and buy their future voting power and possibly give them a political voice.(that might be a “DUP” voice.)Maybe I’m interpreting it wrong, but lets’s look again at some of the connections and players in this curious story.
First Minister Arlene Foster has put it like this…
“I commend the people working in the voluntary and community sectors, who know what most needs to be done in the areas where they work, and I have no doubt this Project will build on that success and really make a difference to the people of East Belfast”.That’s a suitably open-ended statement.
A UDA boss called Jimmy Birch is a director and is a close associate of Dee Stitt ,who is a chief executive and a convicted gunman .Both hold senior positions in a group called Charter NI which the Northern Ireland Executive Office has hand-picked to manage this £1.7 million of our money. Again , I’m left wondering how that went with referees and security checks on the job application.
There is an eight -person East Belfast Steering Panel that has been picked to manage the £1.7 million. This includes Sam “Chalky” White who is a failed DUP council candidate .Mr White is also a convicted UDA gunman….but …what the hell, I’ll just list the players with a brief synopsis of their particular backgrounds and skill and let the reader make up his or her mind. “Baffling” doesn’t begin to describe the moral inconsistencies laid out here……
Arlene Foster : As First Minister and also leader of the DUP(Democratic Unionist Party) her role is to represent the entire community .
Jimmy Birch : He was born in 1970 so would have been a babe in arms when the Troubles really got going in the 1970’s. Now he has somehow become the head of the East Belfast Brigade of the UDA (Ulster Defence Association) and a member of the inner council which controls it.The UDA is an illegal paramilitary organisation. He was 17 when he joined .He never wanted the UDA to de-commission their weapons when a peace deal was hammered out but later reluctantlyhanded in some arms. Racketeers such as Birch liked to assume flamboyant titles such as “Brigadier” within these violent , criminal groups. He eventually decided to work with the DUP (Democratic Unionist Party and get into politics . Since the good Friday Agreement , Loyalists have not shown much facility in garnering votes which are usually given to the DUP. He also made inroads with the Ulster Political Research Group and made contacts within that with Mike Nesbitt’s Ulster Unionist Party and the DUP’s Peter Robinson.
Dee Stitt ; Known as a self-admitted UDA boss and a convicted armed robber , having spent five years in prison for holding UDA guns and taking part in an armed robbery.He is Infamous for intimidation and being associated with a violent campaign which has had community workers beaten up. He is a senior member of the Kilcooley Sports Forum too.His “charity” was given £900,000 to build a sports facility in Bangor. Bangor residents are apparently horrified that local politicians such as the DUP’s Alex Easton MLA are working closely with this known gangster.Stitt illegally controls the area right under the noses of the police and in the shelter of the DUP.
Sam “Chalky” White : He was gaoled for seven years for a hold-up at a taxi office in 1980 and served his time as a UDA prisoner in the Maze prison.He now works as a community worker with Charter NI and sits on one of the SIF steering groups.The DUP for all their chest-beating about terrorism ,selected him to run as a candidate in East Belfast’s Titanic area in 2014.It would appear that the DUP have no real problem with “terrorists” just as long as they were” their own terrorists”.
Emma Pengelly : Emma Pengelly is another interesting creature in the folds of the DUP.She may have been better known originally as Emma Little, being the daughter of loyalist Noel Little. .He was involved in illegal arms trafficking on behalf of Ian Paisley and Peter Robinson’s paramilitary grouping “Ulster Resistance” and was caught and gaoled for his pains during her childhood.She studied and became a barrister and is now a DUP politician and an MLA for Belfast South.Last October she was appointed as a junior minister in the Northern Ireland Executive at the Office of First Minister and Deputy First Minister. She may not have a background in terrorism herself, other than her father’s involvement , but she has certainly been close to it…as has the DUP througout its history.