10 May 2007 Edition

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UVF announcement

Unionist paramilitary group, the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), has declared it is adopting a “non-military, civilianised role” and putting its arsenal of weapons “beyond reach”.
Commenting, Sinn Féin Assembly group leader, John O’Dowd said: “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. It will be judged by what the UVF actually do next.
“While engagement with de Chastelain is welcome, there is no commitment to removing UVF guns from Irish politics.
“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.”
UVF veteran Gusty Spence (73), read out the declaration at Fernhill House Museum, just off the Shankill Road. The statement failed to commit to the decommissioning of UVF weapons, which have been used to murder hundreds of nationalists over the past four decades.
The announcement, issued in the name of the “Ulster Volunteer Force and Red Hand Commando Command Staff”, followed what was described as a three-year internal consultation.
The UVF statement said weapons would be stored in a number of arms dumps “under the control of the UVF leadership, but not accessible for use by members”.
Arms decommissioning body the IICD said the statement did not meet the requirements set out in government legislation.
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said the UVF should work with the decommissioning body “with a view to full decommissioning”. The statement was welcomed by British Prime Minister Tony Blair as a demonstration of support for the restoration of the Six Executive.

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