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7 January 2010 Edition

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UDA says it has decommissioned weapons

UNIONIST paramilitary group the UDA claimed this week that it has decommissioned all of its weapons.
Representatives of the loyalist Ulster Political Research Group (UPRG) told journalists that the UDA had concluded its business with General John de Chastelain of the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning (IICD).
UPRG leader Frankie Gallagher denied suggestions that the decommissioning was bought as a result of a financial offer from the British Government.
The UDA announcement was welcomed by Sinn Féin’s North Belfast MLA Gerry Kelly, who said:
“Firstly, if this statement by the UDA is verified by the IICD, then it is a substantial move forward.
“The nationalist and unionist populations will both be relieved that a substantial amount of guns are being taken off our streets and nationalist communities in particular will rest much easier as a result of that.
“There can be no place for guns as we move forward in advancing the political process. This process has been about taking the gun out of Irish politics.”
The UDA is a sectarian loyalist group which has been controlled and directed by elements of the British state intelligence agencies for many years.
It emerged in 1971 as a cover name for several loyalist murder gangs and has been responsible for the murders of hundreds of people, mostly for no reason other than that the victim was a Catholic.
The fact that many of its attacks were carried out with the assistance or complicity of the British Army and/or the RUC was well known to nationalists but was also confirmed by the Stevens Inquiry.
In 1992 it emerged that Brian Nelson, a UDA member convicted of sectarian murders, was a British Army double agent. Other UDA members have since alleged that they received intelligence from the British Army and the RUC that helped them to target nationalists.
The organisation has been heavily involved in criminality, including drug dealing.
UDA death squads used the cover name Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF) when carrying out murders and attacks against members of the nationalist community in the North and in a number of attacks in the 26 Counties.
Among their more notorious acts was the Greysteel massacre in 1993, when UDA men entered a pub in the County Derry village and opened fire on patrons with automatic weapons, killing eight people.
Synonymous with gangsterism, sectarianism and collusion with British state forces, its members included sectarian thugs such as Johnny Adair, who fled Ireland in 2002 amid a feud with his former colleagues; Jim Gray, shot dead in east Belfast in 2005; and Andre Shoukri, who is serving a nine-year prison sentence for extortion and blackmail.
Despite its bloodstained record, the British Government allowed the UDA to remain as a legal organisation up until 1992.
In 2000 seven people died after a bloody feud between the UDA and rival loyalist group the Ulster Volunteer Force.
British Government recognition for a sham UDA ‘ceasefire’ was removed in October 2001 after the situation became untenable because of persistent, headline-grabbing feuding and drug dealing. But in November 2004 former Northern Ireland secretary Paul Murphy declared the government would again accept the ceasefire following UDA pledges to engage in the peace process.
In November 2007 the UDA issued a Remembrance Day statement in which it said its ‘war’ was over.

RELATIVES
In a statement issued on Wednesday 6 January, Relatives for Justice, the Belfast-based NGO support group that works with and provides support to relatives of people bereaved and injured by the conflict across the North and in border regions in the 26 Counties, said it had been meeting and speaking with families across the North, especially in Mid-Ulster, North Armagh, and Belfast, concerning developments over the last several months.
It said that “scores of families” affected by loyalists, particularly the UDA/UFF, have expressed a consistent viewpoint, which the group summed up as follows:

  • That the UDA/UFF were armed by British Military Intelligence through Brian Nelson with imported weapons from South Africa in 1987/88;
  • That these weapons have been used to kill hundreds of people;
  • That the UDA/UFF have been seeking to extract £10 million from the Irish and British Governments in return for the decommissioning of weapons supplied by the British Government and their intelligence services. Families have been deeply upset at this stunt and especially the involvement of Martin McAleese in spearheading this initiative.

Relatives for Justice went on to say: “Families are not interested in UDA/UFF decommissioning – they want the truth about collusion between these same loyalists, how they were armed, infiltrated, directed and controlled to carry out hundreds of sectarian killings and political assassinations by MI5 and RUC Special Branch with the full sanction of Whitehall and Downing Street.”
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