10 September 2009 Edition

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UDA says it will decommission... in another six months?

UDA: Finally dealing with the issue of its weapons

UDA: Finally dealing with the issue of its weapons

THE mainstream UDA and its breakaway faction in south-east Antrim have given a commitment to The Independent International Commission of Decommissioning to decommission its weapons before legislation protecting them from prosecution ends early next year. The announcement was made by the British Government on Monday.
Sinn Féin’s Alex Maskey, however, while welcoming the belated indications, said the issue of loyalist weapons should have been resolved long ago. And he questioned the role of the UDA in ongoing sectarian provocations.
“The situation within the UDA is simply not good enough,” Alex Maskey said, “especially given the evidence of continuing loyalist violence, much of which is laid at the door of the UDA.”
“The issue of loyalist arms should have been dealt with long before now.
“There is evidence of the orchestrated involvement of loyalist paramilitaries, and particularly the UDA, in sectarian violence across the North. People are well aware of the involvement of loyalists in violence, particularly in south, east, and north Antrim in towns such as Coleraine.
“All these issues must be addressed not just by the loyalist groups themselves but also by the unionist parties.
“Politics is now working and there is no basis for any organisation holding on to arms.”
The south Belfast MLA welcomed the fact that the UVF has finally dealt with the issue of its weapons.

‘PRACTICAL PROGRESS’
The Independent International Commission of Decommissioning (IICD) was established as part of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. Earlier this year, the British Government extended the commission’s mandate for a further year.
In its latest report, the IICD said there had been “substantial practical progress” on the decommissioning of loyalist arms, both in the decommissioning of arms by the Ulster Volunteer Force/Red Hand Commando and a commitment to decommission by the UDA and its factions.
IICD head General John de Chastelain (Canada) and fellow commissioners Brigadier Tauno Nieminen (Norway) and Andrew (United States) confirmed they had witnessed firsthand the decommissioning of weaponry by the UVF and Red Hand Commando earlier this year.
The IICD report said:
“We believe we have completed the decommissioning of the UVF/RHC arms and we have been given a commitment by representatives of the UDA and the UDA south-east Antrim group that they will complete the decommissioning of their arms within the timeframe of the commission’s current and final mandate.”
The IICD dismissed recent speculation that the UDA organisations in south Derry and north Antrim were refusing to give up their arms. The IICD said UDA leaders in that area had reassured the commission that they were still on board.

FEBRUARY DEADLINE
In June, the UVF and RHC had put all their guns beyond use. The UDA had been scheduled to do the same but in actually only decommissioned part of its weaponry.
British Secretary of State Shaun Woodward described the work of the IICD as hugely significant and an end was in sight for the decommissioning process.
“I would urge all groups to continue to work with the commission and put their arms beyond use before the scheme comes to an end in February.”

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