30 January 2006

Loyalist paras pledge future peace


30/01/2006 - 17:24:11

Northern Ireland’s big two loyalist paramilitary organisations will co-operate on a major initiative to abandon all violence for good, a senior source said tonight.

Ulster Defence Association and Ulster Volunteer Force bosses are expected to make a pact not to recruit any men thrown out of either group during attempts to move away from crime.

Both terror groups have been holding internal talks over their future directions following the IRA’s decision to end its armed campaign and decommission.

But with senior loyalists unconvinced that all Provo guns were destroyed last September, an imminent disarmament move by the Protestant paramilitaries was ruled out.

Disbandment of either the UDA or UVF is also highly unlikely.

Instead the discussions, which British government officials are being kept abreast of, are centred on moving the organisations away from sectarianism and racketeering towards greater political and cultural involvement.

High ranking loyalists said the process has already yielded results in parts of Belfast where levels of drug dealing has diminished.

Part of this is due to the new regime installed in the east of the city by the UDA since its flamboyant commander Jim “Doris Day” Gray was ousted and assassinated last year.

“We’re both involved in processes,” an authoritative source confirmed.

“There will have to be a cross-over at a few stages along the line.

“If people are expelled from either organisation the other won’t take them in.

“There shouldn’t be a need to recruit anymore anyway. There’s no war out there.”

The UVF has set up a conflict transformation panel to draw up its future strategy.

No deadlines were installed, but it has been consulting thousands of members in units, or battalions, across Northern Ireland.

UDA contact with representatives from the British government and General John de Chastelain’s international disarmament body has also continued.

“Personally I wouldn’t see disbandment as likely,” a senior loyalist said.

“The IRA said it has left the stage, but P O’Neill (IRA pen name) issued a statement at Christmas.

“We’re not foolish enough to believe the IRA gave up all their weapons last year, so what loyalists do with theirs has to be dealt with.

“What happens is another thing. That would be for the interlocutor and de Chastelain.

“But we heard for so long that the IRA was going to make a seismic move on arms then it kept being put back. We will not be making any promises.”

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