28 May 2006

ICTU urges locals to end support for UVF violence

Sunday Life

Unions take action in Mount Vernon

Stephen Breen
28 May 2006

PEOPLE from the loyalist stronghold where the killers of teenager Thomas Devlin (pictured) are believed to live were last night urged to reject violence.

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) made the plea during a series of meetings with community leaders and residents from Belfast's Mount Vernon estate.

The trade union delegates, including ICTU deputy president Peter Bunting, were invited to outline their message to the loyalist area by the Mount Vernon Community Development Forum.

The initiative is believed to be part of a process across Northern Ireland in which loyalist paramilitaries, many of whom are ex-prisoners and community leaders, are being urged to abandon violence and criminality.

During the talks, the loyalist community was urged to oppose violence, sectarianism and racism.

A number of workshops on conflict resolution, education, learning and employment were also held.

It is not clear if discussions were held directly between ICTU officials and senior paramilitaries in the area.

Mr Bunting confirmed that talks had been held in the estate.

He said: "We were invited into the area by the local community. Everyone knows there are paramilitaries in every area.

"We encouraged people to move away from violence and it really is quite staggering the work which has already been done in this community.

"The trade unions made it clear that violence is not the way forward and we received a very friendly reaction in the area.

Former UVF man and councillor Billy Hutchinson described the project as positive, adding: "We discussed a wide range of issues with the union members and more meetings have been planned.

"This community spoke with one voice over the murder of Thomas Devlin and we are totally opposed to this murder."

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