Irish Republican News · January 8, 2010
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
IRISH REPUBLICAN NEWS: Larger UDA group has ‘fully decommissioned’
Larger UDA group has ‘fully decommissioned’
udaguns.jpg

The mainstream unionist paramilitary UDA has claimed that it has decommissioned all weapons under its control.

The announcement was made at the Stormont Hotel in Belfast on Wednesday by the UDA’s political representative, the Ulster Political Research Group (UPRG).

“Today the leadership of the Ulster Defence Association can confirm that all weaponry under its control has been put verifiably beyond use,” UPRG leader Francie Gallagher said. “This historic decision has been taken as a result of unprecedented consultation of all brigade areas throughout the British Isles.”

The act of decommissioning was verified by two witnesses -- former Church of Ireland primate Lord Eames and British civil servant Sir George Quigley.

The IICD arms body under retired Canadian General John de Chastelain also said “a major act of decommissioning” had been carried out under the terms of its mandate. It added that it had been assured by the mainstream UDA that the arms involved amounted to everything under its control.

The smaller Ulster Volunteer Forces and Red Hand Commando (RHC) groups put all their guns beyond use last June. The UDA is also understood to have destroyed a small number of weapons that month.

The UDA move follows lengthy negotiations over a funding package and ahead of a deadline imposed by the British government for the end of a twelve-year licence for the transportation of arms by the armed groups.

A ‘cash for arms’ deal was recently reported to have been agreed involving a seven figure sum for ‘community groups’ linked to the organisation.

26-County Taoiseach Brian Cowen welcomed the UDA’s statement, describing it as a “significant milestone in the peace process”.

“Taken together with the completion of decommissioning by the IRA and the UVF, it is a clear signal that Northern Ireland has moved on and that the democratic institutions established by the Good Friday Agreement are the means through which the entire community in Northern Ireland, and the people of these islands, can and will build lasting peace and prosperity,” the Taoiseach said.

President Mary McAleese, whose husband has acted as a mediator in the UDA arms negotiations, described the move as a “further testimony to the reality that we are witnessing the deconstruction of a culture of paramilitarism in Northern Ireland and that it is being replaced by a culture of consensus, democracy and good neighbourliness.”

Sinn Féin Assembly member Gerry Kelly described the move as a substantial move forward.

“The nationalist and unionist populations will both be relieved that a substantial amount of guns are being taken off our streets and nationalist communities in particular would rest much easier as a result of that,” he said.

“There can be no place for guns as we move forward in advancing the political process, this process has been about taking the gun out of Irish politics.”

The UDA has tracked an uncertain path through the peace process. Government recognition for the 1994 UDA ceasefire was removed in October 2001 because of feuding and drug dealing. However, former Direct Ruler Paul Murphy said in November 2004 the British government would again accept the ceasefire following UDA pledges to engage in the peace process.

In November 2007 the UDA issued a Remembrance Day statement in which it said its “war” was over. The following day it said all weapons were being put beyond use but added this did not mean they would be decommissioned.

The governments’ acceptance that the mainstream UDA has completely disarmed now increases pressure on its breakaway south-east Antrim faction. The renegade UDA group has previously sought to negotiate its own ‘cash for arms’ deal.

The IICD arms body, headed by Canadian General John de Chastelain, said that it had until the 9th of February this year to “complete our mandate” and urged paramilitary groups “to contact us soon to that effect”.

NEW THREATS

Sinn Féin Junior Minister Gerry Kelly and Mid Ulster Assembly member Francie Malloy have said they have both received death threats.

North Belfast MLA Gerry Kelly said PSNI officers alerted him to the threat from the ‘Orange Volunteers’ on Wednesday night.

The former republican prisoner said it is the second such warning he has had in the last number of weeks.

The Orange Volunteers are a little-known loyalist armed group opposed to the peace process.

“Yesterday I was informed by the PSNI that a death threat had been made against me,” said Mr Kelly.

“The threat stated that ‘Sinn Féin Chief Gerry Kelly is going to be shot within 48 hours - Orange Volunteers - No Surrender’.

“This is the second threat made against me in recent weeks and obviously, for the sake of my family I must take it seriously. In saying that, no threat will detract me from working on behalf of those who elect me and in working to advance the peace and political process in Ireland.”

Meanwhile, Mid Ulster Assembly member Francie Molloy has stated that he will not be deflected from his duties as an elected representative following a bomb threat phoned into the Sinn Féin Coalisland office.

“My office in Coalisland received a bomb warning phoned in this morning by somebody with an English accent stating that a bomb had been left at my family home and would explode in an hour’s time,” he said.

In December four members of the party received a telephone death threat from a caller understood to have been traced to southern Spain.

© 2010 Irish Republican News