Victims of UDA death-squads expressed outrage at the British government’s plans to give the paramilitary group 1.2 million pounds sterling.

Victims’ support groups have been inundated with calls from bereaved families shocked at the payment to the murder gangs.

British Direct Ruler Peter Hain said the money would not be paid directly into UDA funds but his pledge did little to reassure victims.

“We gave them a trial period, over a period of months, to see how this work could progress and now we have agreed a long-term support for this objective which I think is vital,” Mr Hain said.

“For some time now the political leadership of the loyalist community associated with the UDA has wanted to move the whole of the community away from paramilitarism and gangsterism and criminality on to a democratic political path.”

Andree Murphy of victims’ group Relatives for Justice said it had had to send support workers to many families, such was the distress caused by yesterday’s announcement.

“Our office has been inundated with angry and upset families who just can’t get their heads round this,” she said.

“We have three people out visiting families in Belfast alone and just didn’t have the resources to deal with calls from further afield.

“The way victims see it the perpetrators of violence have been rewarded financially despite showing no sign of decommissioning or engaging in the political process.

“Families who have lost loved ones are devastated by this announcement and their distress in the circumstances is fully understandable.”

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© 2007 Irish Republican News