A breakaway faction of the UDA has said the British and 26-County governments now recognise it as an independent organisation after it began disarming.

The south-east Antrim UDA broke away from the mainstream organisation in 2005 following the ousting of the Belfast-based Shoukri brothers and their supporters from the paramilitary group.

Represented politically by the ‘Beyond Conflict’ group headed by Tommy Kirkham, the faction was reported to have recently made a move on weapons with the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning.

The decision to disarm came after the head of the IICD, General de Chastelain, flew into Belfast for talks with representatives of both factions on Thursday.

This Wednesday, Mr Kirkham said the faction was in negotiations as an independent organisation and would move forward as such.

“I am of the belief that all loyalist paramilitary groups should decommission sooner rather than later,” he said.

“There had always been an agreement to make a move on weapons once republicans had decommissioned.

“The dissident [republican] threat hasn’t materialised. They don’t appear to be effective and as we saw in Lurgan recently the police are dealing with those groups.”

“There’s an argument that the IICD’s presence here should be extended beyond next year but we have to recognise that may not happen and we can’t let our ex-combatants take that risk.

“We currently have 10 prisoners and what we have made clear to them is that people aren’t going to accept decommissioning and then another Good Friday Agreement with all the prisoners out. What we are prepared to look at is a working-out scheme for prisoners.

“We are happy enough concentrating on these issues independently. We can only deliver who we are responsible for in south-east Antrim.

In July a standoff in Carrickfergus between the two rival groups resulted in a member of the PSNI police being shot in the back.

Yesterday the ‘Conflict Transformation Initiative’ linked to the mainstream UDA had 1.2 million pounds in funding officially axed.

Social development minister Margaret Ritchie formally informed Farset Community Enterprises she was stopping the funding.

To date the mainstream UDA has ruled out any possibility of decommissioning. The North’s largest unionist paramilitary group has said a “significant statement” on future intent will be read at commemorations throughout the North next month.

The UDA’s name change to the Ulster Defence Union will also be announced publicly on Remembrance Sunday.

At veteran loyalist Sammy Duddy’s funeral last week a ‘colour party’ leading the cortege wore ties and armbands bearing the UDU crest - the first time the emblem has been used publicly.

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