25 March 2006

Empey in 'paramilitary meetings'


Empey was interviewed for the BBC's Inside Politics programme

Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey has told the BBC he has been meeting loyalist paramilitary leaders since the autumn of last year.

It was an effort to persuade them to abandon violence, he said.

Sir Reg told the BBC the UDA and UVF were at different stages in their internal consultations.

The main unionist parties "had a special responsibility to persuade the loyalist paramilitaries to commit to purely peaceful means".

Empey was interviewed for the BBC's Inside Politics programme.

"We are trying to create circumstances where there is sufficient confidence in that community to move away from the old ways," he said.

"To be committed to exclusively peaceful means, to focus on community activity in local areas, to recognise that one cannot go on as one has been doing with rackets, with drugs and other activities - that has to stop."

In January, an Independent Monitoring Commission report said the UDA and its members had continued to undertake targeting, shootings and assaults.

"Members of the organisation were engaged in drug dealing, extortion, the production and sale of counterfeit goods, money laundering and robbery," it said.

On the UVF, the IMC said: "It remains a continuing and serious threat to the rule of law and our previous phrase - active, violent and ruthless - still applies to it."

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