UDA arms farce

A plan for the unionist paramilitary UDA to disarm has failed because of a failure by government officials to hand over millions of pounds to UDA controlled areas, according to reports.

The husband of the Irish President, Martin McAleese, was blamed for making promises to senior UDA figures, with whom he has a well known relationship.

He is understood to have held a series of meetings with UDA ‘brigadier’ Jackie McDonald and other UDA leaders to discuss their concerns about funds.

As a result, he drew up an ‘action plan’ and asked the British government to contribute five million pounds sterling to “ “exploit the opportunity to build a new and positive future for everyone”.

He said this would be matched by the Dublin government. The 26-County foreign minister, Micheal Martin, is believed to have attended one of Mr McAleese’s meetings with senior UDA figures.

The BBC has claimed that Mr McAleese was told by British officials that it wouldn’t be possible to supply the funds and that such a project would be a matter for the Six-Coumty Stormont administration.

It is understood Mr McAleese then asked the Office of the First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness to provide the funding, but without success.

That is believed to have led the UDA to pull out of the deal, according to the reports, which also claimed Mr McGuinness was set to meet the UDA leadership to discuss the plan.

Mainstream republicans viewed the arms deal with extreme scepticism and a blatant attempt to pay the UDA for its weapons.

Martin McAleese is now reported to be seeking European funding for a modified proposal which includes a total of ten areas -- five loyalist and five nationalist.

In a statement, the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin said it would continue to support Mr McAleese’s efforts.

“Mr McAleese’s outreach initiatives with the loyalist communities have been very helpful in consolidating peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland,” a spokesperson said.

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