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5 April 2007 Edition

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The Mary Nelis Column

UDA’s ‘how to spend a million’

It’s called ‘how to spend a million’, the UDA conference in Belfast, and the specially invited guests including the PSNI chief Constable Hugh Orde, will be there to advise the participants on things like value for money and more of the same if they are good boys. Hugh Orde described the conference as a positive event pointing out that its good to talk. Mind you the so called ‘brigadiers’ in the UDA have been doing a lot of talking over the years to the Special Branch and British Military intelligence and I’ll bet they had more than a passing conversation with Orde himself. Orde wants to see ‘tangible changes’ in the UDA who still claim to be on ceasefire despite having murdered scores of people, over the past ten years.
There is a sense of outrage in the communities at what is seen as ‘blood money’ being paid to an organisation that continues to strut its paramilitaries credentials. Even as the British Government were announcing the million pound reward, no doubt for services rendered, the current crop of so called brigadiers were expelling those who were obviously not in favour of the new found ‘commitment to change’. Even some of their erstwhile political advisors were given the boot last week.
There is little or no evidence of the change Orde talks of, despite the courtship between Jackie McDonald and the husband of the President, Martin McAleese. In 2003, Jackie McDonald, a leading Brigadier in the UDA, helped carry the coffin of the South Antrim brigadier John Gregg, whose name had been linked to the murders of the Catholic postman, Daniel Mc Colgan, the Protestant schoolboy Gavin Brett and 19-year-old Gerard Lawlor. No one has been charged with these sectarian murders and there is still a deafening silence from unionist politicians, so vociferous in their condemnation of Gerry Adams when he carried the coffin of Volunteer Sean Begley. 
This is the organisation that only a few months ago mounted a ‘show of strength’ in North Belfast. That in August last year burst into the home of a Catholic family in the Waterside area of Derry, and beat and kicked Paul McCauley so badly that he has remained in a coma since.
 The Ulster Political Research Group claim that the million pounds will be used to build up the community infrastructure in the Protestant areas of Belfast, abandoned by unionist politicians and ravaged by the UDA through drug dealing, extortion, intimidation and murder. It may even mean an end to the love-in between the UDA and the intelligence services, including the police past and present, who turned a blind eye to the extra curricular activities when it suited their political agenda.
The timing of the conference coincides with the anniversary of the murder of Margaret Wright, a 31-year-old Protestant who in April 1994 was abducted, stripped naked, beaten, tortured, shot and her body then dumped in a wheelie bin by members of the UDA who mistakenly thought she was a Catholic. Money will never erase that brutality.

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