UVF will wait and see on arms

A political representative of the UVF has said unionist paramilitaries will wait to see whether power-sharing between Sinn Féin and the DUP succeeds before decommissioning their weapons.

Speaking after a meeting with the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern in Dublin, PUP leader Dawn Purvis said paramilitaries would “not be found wanting” if devolution works.

“The leadership of the UVF and the Red Hand Commando want political stability and accountable democracy in Northern Ireland,” she said.

Ms Purvis refused to comment on media speculation about a possible forthcoming UVF ‘stand-down’ statement.

But she said: “The UVF have said in the past that when they see Plan A delivered, they will not be found wanting.”

The UVF have threatened to oppose the so-called ‘Plan B’ option -- currently shelved -- which would have seen Anglo-Irish parternership arrrangements put in place for the administration of the Six Counties.

Ms Purvis said that during her talks with Mr Ahern she had raised the issue of republican militarists operating in the 26 Counties. She said he had assured her that he would do everything he could to quell “illegal activity”.

“The taoiseach gave us a commitment of continued engagement with loyalism and with the PUP,” she said.

Meanwhile, SDLP Mid Ulster assembly member Patsy McGlone said there had been a lot of spinning about a big statement coming soon from the UVF “but all we really need is a little statement saying they are giving up the guns and going out of business”.

“There should be no more codding around on this by the British government or the PUP or anyone else,” he said.

Sinn Féin TD Aengus O Snodaigh said that while the talks between Mr Ahern and Ms Purvis were welcome they came against the backdrop of a UVF threat to more than 150 nationalists in recent weeks.

A member of the PSNI Administrative team and a serving member of the British Army’s Royal Irish Regiment have been gradually exposed as involved in the plot which saw personal details of nationalist ‘targets’ passed to the UVF.

“All of us clearly want to help loyalist communities to move forward and play their part in creating a new society on this island. However this will not happen while unionist paramilitary gangs heavily involved in drugs, extortion and other criminality continue operate,” said Mr O Snodaigh.

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