Loyalists claim arms moves
Loyalists claim arms moves

Both the UVF and the UDA have issued statements this morning claiming to have carried out some decommissioning of their weapons.

Without confirmation from the IICD arms body under Canadian General John de Chastelain of any decommissioning moves, the statements are being treated with scepticism.

The UVF, the second largest unionist paramilitary group in the North, claimed to have destroyed all its weapons. However, the Red Hand Commando, considered a cover name the UVF, said it had carried out a disarmament act.

The UDA, the largest unionist paramilitary group in the North, said it had begun the process of decommissioning.

Strong pressure has been brought to bear on the unionist paramilitary groups in recent weeks to issue decommissioning statements, or face the withdrawal of substantial grant aid and the possibility of arrest operations over their secret arms dumps.

A supply of pipe bombs and ammunition was uncovered earlier this week in south Belfast, near where loyalists had targeted a community of Romanian immigrants.

The UDA statement claimed it had decommissioned a portion of its arsenal and had begun a process that would lead to the destruction of all its arms.

The UDA has recently been blamed for the murder of Catholic father-or-four Kevin McDaid in Coleraine last month.

"This is a courageous and unprecedented move that is part of a wider transition from conflict to peace," the UDA said.

"This process was initiated in autumn 2008 when the Combined Loyalist Military Command was reconvened to address the outstanding issue of Loyalist military material. As a result of those discussions, all constituent parts agreed to set in place the internal arrangements necessary to begin the disarmament process.

"As a result we have held a series of meetings with General John De Chastelain and his team who have witnessed an act of decommissioning. This process will be completed within the previously notified timescale.

"By carrying out this act we are helping to build a new and better Northern Ireland where conflict is a thing of the past."

The UVF leadership said: "We have done so to further augment the establishment of accountable democratic governance in this region of the UK, to remove the pretext that loyalist weaponry is an obstacle to the development of our communities and to compound our legacy of integrity to the peace process."

Republicans warned of previous propoganda stunts and deceptions over the issue of loyalist arms.

However, Sinn Fein welcomed the possibility of a genuine UVF arms move.

"The IRA dealt with the issue of arms in a decisive way four years ago. If these reports prove to be true, and the UVF have now followed suit, then that would obviously be a welcome move.

"It is also important that other armed organisations go down this road. Politics is now working and there is no basis for any organisation holding onto arms".

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