The UDA has warned of being ready to “do battle” in a statement read to several thousand loyalist supporters at a number of venues in the north of Ireland.

The unionist paramilitary group used a similar statement last year to call on its gunmen to ‘stand down’.

However, this year’s statement saw a complete reversal, with the UDA using the commemorations to brace for combat while accusing republicans of “agitation and non-violence”.

The address to members and supporters on Sunday made no reference to the issue of UDA weapons, which the group has refused to decommission.

The UDA statement read: “Our people and country continue to face many challenges.

“We must stand ready to do battle but we must be on the right battlefield and continue to train in the skills that will enable us not only to defend our community but take the lead.

“The threat from Irish republicanism and nationalism has not abated. They are challenging our very existence at every level.

“They are challenging through agitation and non-violence but it is every bit as dangerous and must be combated.”


Meanwhile, the little-known unionist paramilitary group, the Orange Volunteers, has admitted destroying a Gaelic sports clubhouse outside Dungannon, in County Tyrone.

Club chairman Peter O’Connor said everyone was in shock at the attack early on Saturday but that the club hoped to start rebuilding as soon as possible.

“The building has been completely destroyed. When I got there at 6am the whole place was on fire. The roof was off and the first floor had completely collapsed in,” he said.

Six fire crews battled the blaze for four hours but were unable to enter the building because it was unsafe.

The walls of the clubhouse have been judged unsafe and the building will have to be demolished.

In a statement to a television newsroom on Saturday night, the Orange Volunteers said it was responsible for the blaze.

The group emerged during the 1998 Drumcree dispute after a fundamentalist Protestant gang split from the UVF, but have not openly claimed an attack for several years.

The Orange Volunteers claimed the fire was in retaliation for damage to Ballinderry Orange Hall near Coagh in County Tyrone last Sunday.

Meanwhile, the Continuity IRA has claimed responsibility for an attack on Lurgan PSNI barracks last week. A blast bomb was thrown at the base at around 7.30pm on Wednesday night last. No-one was reported hurt in the blast and no damage was caused.

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© 2008 Irish Republican News