27 October 2005 Edition
Empey calls for unionist paramilitaries to disarm
"End the pain," UUP leader Reg Empey told feuding unionist paramilitaries during the party's annual conference this week. "Begin the job of decommissioning the firepower that was brought so much misery," said Empey urging groups like the UVF, UDA and LVF to disarm and disband.
"I make this direct appeal to these groups," said Empey, "call it a day". The UUP leader went on to say that his "door was open" to unionist paramilitaries.
With an implied reference to the DUP Empey told unionist paramilitaries "the days when you listened to blood-curdling speeches of some unionist leaders in the Ulster Hall are long since past as are the days of Ulster Resistance and middle of the night mountain side adventures".
"Listen one last time to me. Political unionism cannot wash its hands of what happened 20 or 30 years ago but if you agree that this chapter can now be closed, you will find me a politician who will assist that transition to a better future. My door is open to you. But you must realise that you cannot continue as you are," said Empey.
Deputy leader Danny Kennedy told the conference that the only people who would prosper from a failure to rebuild the Stormont administration would be republicans. "Ask yourself this. In whose interest is it to see Northern Ireland in political turmoil and ensnared in a political vacuum? Not unionism," said Kennedy.
Meanwhile East Belfast MLA Mark Cosgrove denounced "unaccountable Ministers" at the NIO and accused British Government officials of being "pompous" with "an inflated view of their own importance".
So much for those who believe republicans and unionists can never agree.