YOU’LL never hear it said in the usual quarters, but the total disappearance of the IRA has been one of the most – if not the most – comprehensively delivered promises of the peace process.

Against a background of unionist politicians and the overwhelmingly unionist media here being on a hair trigger for any story suggesting that the IRA might still be operational, and with proof of IRA activity being more likely than anything else to shatter the devolved institutions, that’s a reality that more than any other has kept the peace process on track. The odd desperate and frankly comical effort to resurrect the IRA hasn’t been enough to convince even those who are panting to be convinced.

Flip that coin and we see the loyalist paramilitaries continuing to strut the stage safe in the knowledge that little or nothing will be done by police to address their latest brutal outrage or their newest crime caper.

The recent appearance of a UDA colour party at a Belfast crematorium was remarkable evidence of the complete failure of the PSNI to put the fear of the law into the UDA or the UVF. The shockingly gruesome crucifixion of a man in Bushmills by the UDA, meanwhile, was a crime of such barbarity as to suggest that the loyalist paramilitaries have such a  vice-like grip on the communities they infest that they no longer have any need to maintain or polish an image of protector.

The main reason that the people of working class loyalist communities remain cowed in the face of such insanely violent intimidation is that they are fearful of the consequences should they as much as suggest that they no longer want to live under the boot of drug cartels – and why wouldn’t they be?

One of the reasons they are fearful is that there is no effort by any unionist politician to move against the thugs and gangsters. After the crematorium incident and the Bushmills outrage, reaction from unionists reps was muted, as it usually is. Most preferred to say nothing, and the comments of those who deigned to speak out lacked the anger and passion that such outrages surely demand.

Until that changes, until political unionism decides that the people who keep them in paid office deserve better, then the men with the guns and the class-A product will continue to hold sway in the areas the politicians are supposed to represent. If a party, an MP, a councillor or an MLA won’t speak out, then what chance is there that the communities who host the criminals will move against them? Who can blame ordinary working class loyalists for keeping their heads down when their politicians, who are protected by big platforms and bigger profiles, are telling them by word and deed that keeping quiet is the smart reaction to flagrant criminality.

After the IRA departed the stage, the late Martin McGuinness took his life in his hands by passionately rejecting violent dissident republicans, who subsequently faded into obscurity. Who will do the same to the UDA and UVF?