17 March 2006

DUP is urged to meet loyalist paramilitaries

Belfast Telegraph

By Brian Rowan
17 March 2006

The DUP could assist peace moves within loyalism by meeting "openly" with the paramilitary leadership, a senior loyalist source has said.

The comments follow recent talks involving DUP MPs Peter Robinson and Nigel Dodds and the chairman of the Loyalist Commission the Rev Mervyn Gibson.

The paramilitary source made the call for direct talks as the UDA, UVF and the Red Hand Commando continue to debate the future status of their organisations.

He said the DUP should face paramilitary leaders "head-on".

"The right people aren't encouraging anybody," he said.

The senior paramilitary said loyalists needed encouragement "from the right quarters".

He said they still felt they were "being ignored", and they were "having problems bringing people along". The DUP "could break the impasse," he added.

"That (direct talks with paramilitaries) would cause them embarrassment because of Sinn Fein, and Sinn Fein would use that against them, (but) somebody is going to have to show leadership and break the mould," he said.

The source said one meeting could determine what would be needed of the paramilitaries for "the talking to continue".

Peace moves within loyalism have been undermined by the recent activities of the UDA in north Belfast, but, in a statement last week, the leadership of the paramilitary group said its members were "committed to a process of change".

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