Irish Republican News · May 8, 2007
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Cautious welcome for UVF statement

An announcement by the unionist paramilitary UVF that it is effectively ‘standing down’ has been welcomed, but there were calls for it to go much further.

Doubts remain about the group’s true intentions as it emerged that its decision to put its weaponry “beyond reach” does not signal any intention to decommission its guns.

26-County Taoiseach Bertie Ahern described the announcement as “potentially very important”.

“Words now need to be borne out with actions and we look forward to their full delivery,” Mr Ahern said.

However, General John de Chastelain’s decommissioning body confirmed that putting weapons “beyond reach” did not meet the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

“Without the commission’s involvement action on arms does not meet the requirements of the decommissioning legislation nor the agreement reached by the parties in the Belfast Agreement,” the commission said.

Sinn Féin’s John O’Dowd said the nationalist community would judge the UVF on what happened next.

“This is a welcome statement if it signals a recognition of the new political reality where there is no room for armed or violent actions,” he said.

“People who have been the victim of the UVF campaigns across the north, particularly the sectarian campaigns in places like north Antrim, will want to see an end to their violence on the ground.”

Republican Sinn Féin President Ruairi O Bradaigh gave the statement a qualified welcome.

“However, the fact that arms are to be retained and will continue to be available to its leadership remains a threat to the nationalist people against whom a relentless campaign of assassination has been carried out,” he said.

“This menace also extends to the Unionist community, many of whose members have also been killed by the same UVF while others have suffered greatly at their hands. In particular uninvolved and innocent nationalists have been targeted by UVF death squads working in collusion with the British crown forces and their intelligence groupings.”

Mr O Bradaigh said the UVF’s campaign since the summer of 1966, saw the murder of uninvolved people “deliberately and as a matter of policy”.

The UVF was responsible for some of the worst atrocities of the recent conflict, including the Shankill Butcher murders and the Dublin/Monaghan bombings.

Father-of-13 Jos-eph Morrissey was stabbed to death after being abducted and viciously stabbed to death by the Shankill Butcher gang as he walked home from Belfast city centre on February 3 1977.

A coroner’s report concluded that the victim had been attacked with such force that his teeth had been ripped out by the roots and his head all but severed from his body.

His eldest daughter, Rosemary Harley, said she hoped the UVF was genuine in its statement yesterday.

“They killed my father more than 30 years ago and for what?” she said.

“It is bad enough losing your father but when he receives such a terrible death it is made 10 times harder.

“I just hope the killings will now stop and that this generation will be allowed to get on with their lives.

“People have suffered en-ough. Too many young lives have been destroyed through bitterness and hatred.

“I hope the UVF is telling the truth and they are finally going to go away.”

“I just hope to God that no-one else has to suffer the way we did.”

The chairman of the Dublin/ Monaghan victims’ group Justice for the Forgotten, Kevin O’Loughlin said he supported any loyalist move away from violence.

“If the UVF is saying it is standing down then that has to be a good thing,” he said.

“Obviously we have concerns that it is not saying it is going to give up its weapons.’’

He said he hoped the UVF would now agree to take part in some form of truth process that could provide answers to victims’ families.

“It would be a good thing if they provided the families with the evidence that there was collusion in the Dublin/ Monaghan attacks,” he said.

“It would finally allow us to know what really happened and who was responsible for the murders of our loved ones.”

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© 2007 Irish Republican News