28 November 2005

Loyalist commission in snub to arms General

Sunday Life

By Alan Murray
27 November 2005

GENERAL John de Chastelain has been given the cold shoulder by the Loyalist Commission.

The retired Canadian army officer was hoping to meet the group during a six day visit to Belfast and Dublin. But loyalist sources say they see no reason to meet at the moment because neither the UDA or the UVF is planning to decommission soon.

General John de Chastelain, who is in Belfast until Wednesday, has made approaches to meet representatives from the Commission which includes church, community and political figures as well as representatives of the UDA, UVF and Red Hand Commando terror groups.

But a loyalist source said: "There wouldn't be much point in the meeting.

"The UDA is meeting with the General and the UVF is not and isn't likely to do so in the near future.

"It's not really the Commission's role to speak on matters like that for all three organisations.

The three groups have different strategies and are all working to different timetables."

The General is being accompanied on his trip by his fellow commissioners of the independent arms decommissioning group - the Finnish Brigadier Tauno Nieminen and the former diplomat Andrew Sens from the United States.

Loyalist sources say that while they respect the General they suspect he was seeking to probe how decommissioning of their organisations could come about and what they would be seeking in return.

Said a senior loyalist source: "We suspect that the General was wanting to get an overview of where the main organisations are on the issue of decommissioning and was trying to work out what would move things along.

"That's something we will tell the Government in due course when they begin to take us seriously.

"At the moment many loyalists feel that the Government is making noises but isn't coming up with the goods. The IRA squeezed more and more concessions from Tony Blair in return for decommissioning including the 'on the runs' legislation.

"Loyalists will be looking at many things that we want changed and we'll see in the new year how the Government will respond."

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