23 September 2005

'Delay' in UVF censure slammed

Belfast Telegraph

By Noel McAdam
23 September 2005

Questions over the timing of the Government decision to pull the plug on the UVF ceasefire were being asked last night after the latest Independent Monitoring Commission report.

And the Commission was accused of ignoring the relationship between unionist politicians and loyalist paramilitaries on bodies such as the North and West Belfast Parades Forum.

After withdrawing formal recognition of its ceasefire - 'specification' - and stopping financial grants to the UVF-linked Progressive Unionist Party, Stormont Minister David Hanson signalled that further action could be taken.

As he began intensive talks with loyalist leaders following the recent wave of violence and confrontation, Mr Hanson said the Government would be listening to representations.

But SDLP Assembly member Alban McGuinness said the main question raised by the report was why Secretary of State Peter Hain had to be dragged "inch by inch" towards specification.

"Why did he delay the decision to specify for so long, while the UVF was flexing its muscles, parading its strength in Garnerville and carrying out no less than five street executions? "

The criticism was echoed by Alliance Party leader David Ford who said:

"Questions remain as to why the Government did not specify the UVF ceasefire on the basis of the feud alone."

Sinn Fein Assembly member Alex Maskey said the IMC had "predictably" ignored the relationships between the various unionist paramilitary gangs and the UUP and DUP through the North and West Parades Forum and the Loyalist Commission.

The IMC said while the recent feud may have escalated because of "local animosities" it believed the UVF had decided the time was right to "finish off" the LVF.

LVF violence, while fuelled by rivalry, had been "more by way of response" - the main aim being survival.

Others owed their lives to prompt, pre-emptive action by the Police Service of Northern Ireland - although the "spur of the moment" nature of the attacks had meant often police had missed out on any advance warning.

The report also said the PUP had failed to exert its opposition to the UVF and warned that while the Commission was aware the PUP is not strong enough to influence the UVF, the party could not "have it both ways."

PUP boss David Ervine had said no-one in a leadership position in the party was in the leadership of the UVF and it was contrary to natural justice to punish people who had not broken the law.

But the IMC said the PUP had to decide whether to disassociate itself from the paramilitary organisation or accept the consequences of the link. East Belfast Assembly member Mr Ervine had no further comment last night.

The report said the feud lead to the murders in July and August of Jameson Lockhart, Craig McCausland, Stephen Paul and Michael Green among a total of 49 incidents including:

seven attempted murders,

shootings and the use of petrol bombs or explosives,

forced departure of families from Garnerville and arson and other attacks on taxi in Crumlin Road, and

criminal damage including the ramming of a vehicle

But it said neither the UVF or the LVF could be named in relation to the killings of 25-year-old Lisa Dorrian.

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