26 April 2006

Loyalists 'still bound to violence and crime'


26/04/2006 - 10:34:08

The loyalist Ulster Defence Association’s involvement in criminality remains endemic, the Independent Monitoring Commission said today.

In its latest report on paramilitary groups, it said there had been little change in the past three months, with the organisation involved in shooting and assaults.

The IMC believed UDA members were responsible for the murder of a man in Co Antrim in February.

Thomas Hollran, 49, died in hospital days after being found lying an an alley in Carrickfergus, suffering from serious injuries.

It is believed he had been ordered to leave the town after a dispute with UDA members last year and was targeted when he took the train back on a Saturday night to visit a relative.

The IMC said it had no information that the leadership of the UDA sanctioned the death.

Nevertheless, the IMC painted a picture of an organisation mired in violence.

“The UDA continues to act violently, undertaking both shootings and assaults. The organisation aspires to arm and equip itself.

“The UDA’s heavy involvement in crime, including drug dealing and blackmail, continues and in some parts of the organisation criminality can be described as endemic,” said the report.

Despite the assessment, the IMC said it had found some positive signs and they continued to believe there were some people within the organisation who understood the futility as well as the unacceptability of continued criminality and the harm it inflicted on local communities.

It said it believed there were leading elements in the organisation who were continuing efforts to reduce criminality but efforts met with “a mixed success“.

The report added: “There are some tensions at the senior levels and the clear lead to stop targeting nationalists and ethnic minorities has not yet emerged.”

The assessment on the Ulster Volunteer Force was little better.

There had been a reduction of activity since the end of its feud with the rival Loyalist Volunteer Force but it was still operational.

It was responsible for a range of criminal activities, including violence, and continued to display behaviour “indicating that it intends to remain in paramilitary business“.

The UVF “undertook both shootings and assaults over the recent period. It continues to recruit new members throughout Northern Ireland“.

Weapons, explosives and other paramilitary equipment seized in Belfast in February belonged to the UVF, the IMC believed.

It added: “Crime is prevalent throughout the organisation.”

There had been some effort by elements of the UVF leadership to tackle criminality, said the report, and as with the UDA there were certain people who wanted to move away from criminality.

So far, though, there had not been a significant impact on the organisation as a whole. “We do not therefore change our overall assessment that the organisation is active, violent and ruthless.”

The recent statement from a spokesman that it did not intend to do more to improve the situation before November 24 – the deadline date for the establishment of a power-sharing executive at Stormont – was “not encouraging“.

On the dissident republican side, the Continuity IRA (CIRA) had been active during the three months covered by the report – on two occasions viable bombs were planted near police stations.

It was believed to be responsible for a device placed near the Belfast offices of the Probation Board in January and an unsuccessful device directed at the railway in Lurgan, Co Armagh, the same month.

The CIRA wished to remain an active paramilitary organisation, said the IMC. It “remains committed to terrorism“, and had been the most active of dissident groups.

Over the period under examination, it “continued efforts to recruit and train members; it monitored possibilities for attacks; and it aspired to further arm and equip itself“.

The Irish National Liberation Army remained much as it had in the previous report – continuing a low but potentially serious level of activity and remaining involved in organised crime, including drugs and smuggling.

It aspired to do more and continued efforts to recruit and to exert control over communities.

It was believed to have been behind a major robbery from the Ulster Bank in Belfast in February, and robberies in Strabane and Sion Mills the month before.

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