THE BRITISH let Johnny "Mad Dog" Adair out of prison with other self-styled soldiers as part of the peace in Northern Ireland.
Never mind that he had murdered dozens of Catholics and been convicted of directing terrorism. This was part of the deal that restarted legitimate politics amid a cease-fire by both republican (Catholic) and loyalist (Protestant) paramilitaries.
Freedom, to Mad Dog, meant freedom to parade for two months up and down his Shankill Road turf in West Belfast in a bulletproof vest, and reassert the reign of his group, the Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF), within the larger Ulster Defense Association (UDA).
Violence attributed to Adair was provocation to the rival Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF). So when the Royal Ulster Constabulary picked up Adair and whisked him back to prison by helicopter, it was after two of his followers had been assassinated.
That wasn't going to call it off, leader or no leader. And so a young man associated with the enemy UVF was executed in his home.
The British troops are back in the street -- properly so -- for this internecine warfare in the Protestant slums. It shows the weakness of having declared a return to politics without "decommissioning" or destruction of weapons by those who held them.
Meanwhile, the bastion of Protestant working-class employment, Belfast's Harland and Wolff Shipyard, is on its last legs, threatened by Norwegian owners. Northern Ireland, like other rustbelt centers, needs new, high-tech industry and a climate that attracts investment. Such antiquities as the UDA and UVF keep out hope.
Northern Ireland won't have peace until the paramilitaries of both communities have packed up and quit; and the rule of law, with the consent of all, prevails.