19 February 2006

UVF is to stand down at Somme commemoration

Sunday Life

19 February 2006

UVF chiefs are to use this year's emotive 90th anniversary of the Battle of Somme commemorations in France to announce it is standing down as a paramilitary group.

Hundreds of members and supporters of the loyalist terror group are planning to travel to Normandy to take part in events to mark the anniversary.

Loyalist sources say UVF leaders have chosen July 1 to make the widely anticipated statement on the group's future because of the historic significance of the date.

"It's an emotive date in Northern Ireland and that has not been lost on the UVF leadership," said the source.

"They have also chosen the backdrop of the Somme commemorations to maximise publicity."

The expected UVF statement will come 40 years after of the formation of the terror group, which adopted the name of the original UVF founded by Lord Carson in 1912.

It will also come only a few days after the 40th anniversary of the brutal sectarian murder of Catholic barman, Peter Ward, 18, who was shot dead by a UVF gang, including Gusty Spence, outside the Malvern Arms pub in the Shankill area on June 26, 1966.

Unionist Prime Minister Terence O'Neill banned the UVF within days of the killing, describing the group as "this evil thing in our midst using the sordid techiques of gangsterism".

The UVF leadership is expected to announce:

• Standing down of the majority of UVF units across Northern Ireland.

• A time-scale for the winding up of the loyalist paramilitary organisation.

• A commitment to dispose of all UVF arms and explosives.

• The formation of an old comrades association to be known as the 36th Ulster Division Old Comrades Association.

Sources said several hundred people would be travelling to the area around Thiepval Wood where soldiers from the 36th Ulster Division launched their attack on the heavily fortified German positions on 1st July, 1916, suffering horrendous casualties.

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