12 March 2006

Notorious UVF unit 'to be stood down'

Belfast Telegraph

12 March 2006

A UVF unit behind some of the most savage killings of the Troubles will be stood down before the end of the month, loyalist sources have claimed.

Members of the UVF's notorious mid-Ulster Brigade, based in Portadown, will be given their marching orders within days.

The move is understood to be the first steps towards an overall winding up of the loyalist terror gang later this summer.

It is understood senior UVF commanders from Belfast visited Portadown recently and told local leaders they were standing down the mid-Ulster brigade.

"There was no room for debate," said a source.

"It was just, 'thanks, lads, but you are no longer needed - so on your bikes'.

"Believe me, there is a lot of anger in certain quarters in Portadown about the move."

Sources said one UVF officer would remain in place in mid-Ulster until July to oversee the return of weapons and other equipment to Belfast.

"By the end of March the UVF in Portadown will be nothing more than a one man band," a loyalist source said. "The mid-Ulster Brigade is now the only UVF unit ever to have been stood down on two occasions.

"However, this time there will be no return."

During its blood-drenched 30-year history, the mid-Ulster UVF has been involved in several high-profile attacks which claimed the lives of dozens of people. Under the command of Robin 'The Jackal' Jackson members of the mid-Ulster unit were involved in:

• The Dublin and Monaghan bomb attacks which claimed the lives of 33 people in May 1974;
• The murder of top IRA commander John Francis Green, at Tullyash, Co Monaghan, in January 1975; • The shooting dead of six members of the O'Dowd and Reavey families in coordinated gun-attacks at Bleary and Whitecross and;
• The gun and bomb attack which claimed the lives of three members of the Miami Showband in August 1976.

Jackson's successor Billy Wright was expelled by the UVF in August 1986 and ordered to leave the country. Wright defied the order and set up his own unit, the LVF.

Tensions between the UVF and LVF often boiled over into bouts of blood letting. However, a decision by the LVF to stand down last October helped bring an end to the long-simmering feud.

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