05 February 2006

UDA is holding on to its guns

Sunday Life

05 February 2006

A senior UDA figure has dismissed suggestions that the organisation is considering decommissioning its weapons.

Jackie McDonald - who Special Branch says is the organisation's South Belfast brigadier - told Sunday Life that he didn't believe there was any likelihood that the terrorist group would dump arms.

He said: "I can't know exactly what the Ulster Freedom Fighters is discussing.

"But from what I hear, decommissioning weapons isn't on the radar. I certainly haven't heard anything about discussions on decommissioning going on within the organisation."

But the leading loyalist said he was certain that progress was being made to stop drug-dealing, racketeering and attacks by paramilitaries in Protestant areas.

"I have no doubt that people are trying to bring many criminal things to an end and that progress is being made.

"People are trying to move in the right direction, but the main thing is that the Government and others have to recognise that people are trying to move in the right direction," he said.

"Look at the rewards that the biggest criminal organisation in western Europe - the IRA - has got from the two governments, and they've held onto many guns, we've now learned.

"They have got everything and loyalists have got nothing."

However, McDonald said he could see a time when the UFF - the UDA's military wing - would be stood down.

"I can see that situation coming about in certain circumstances.

"And from what I understand, it is being discussed, but decommissioning isn't on the radar - despite what was written in some papers last week.

"The IMC tells the world that the IRA hasn't gone away, is still collecting details on people and has many guns still hidden. I can't see loyalists throwing their guns away with that going on.

"But progress is being made and the Government needs to help us to make more good things happen."

One senior UDA figure in north Belfast confirmed McDonald's assessment.

"Decommissioning isn't being discussed and, frankly, I don't think it will happen within the UDA.

"I don't know about the UVF.

"I just speak for the UDA and we have eight interface areas up here and the INLA, the Real IRA and the Continuity IRA are active and the Provos are about, too, picking up details on people.

"So this brigade won't vote for decommissioning unless some very dramatic things happen."

It's reliably understood that the UVF is considering a significant "downsizing" operation, but not decommissioning.

Said one senior UVF source: "Neither of the two main loyalist groups is actively discussing decommissioning.

"It may be mentioned in passing, but it is not being seriously discussed by either of the two groups.

"The irony is that it's the Loyalist Volunteer Force that has the most formidable arsenal of weapons with over 700 guns in mint condition.

"They really have the best kit among the three groups and the Independent Monitoring Commission Report said they hadn't gone away, you know.

"And while the feud with the LVF is settled, nobody can say for certain that it will never ever erupt again.

"It shouldn't, but who knows?" added the senior UVF source.

slnews@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

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