AP front 1 - 2022

6 December 2001 Edition

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UDP bows to the inevitable


The loyalist Ulster Democratic Party, the political front for the murder gangs of the UDA, has been disbanded following months of speculation about the future of the party and it's increasingly difficult relationship with the UDA itself. The UDP's future seemed to have been sealed in June of this year when it failed to register as a political party for the local government elections, although serious splits within the party over its notional support for the Good Friday Agreement has been apparent from as early as January. In July, after pressure from the UDA, 'moderates' within the party such as Gary McMichael and David Adams were sidelined and the UDP formerly withdrew its support for the GFA. Then came the British Secretary of State's declaration that the UDA ceasefire was officially regarded as over, although this latter decision came only after almost a year of sustained pipe-bomb attacks on nationalist homes and families by the UDA.

The announcement that the UDP, which was founded in 1987, would "cease to exist" came on 28 November, when the party issued a statement in which it acknowledged that it had little or no chance of gaining electoral support. The party has done notably badly in elections where it managed to field candidates, gaining only a few local council seats and failing to win any seats in the Assembly. As well as publicly justifying its paramilitary wing's pipe-bomb campaign against Catholics - in the person of John White, one of the conflict's most notoriously savage sectarian killers - the UDP's electoral and PR difficulties have also been compounded by its association with the UDA's flagrant criminal activities, including large scale drug dealing and extortion. The statement read: "During the past months, intensive discussions have taken place within the Ulster Democratic Party regarding the future electoral and representative viability of the party. These discussions are now at an end and it has been decided that, from this date, the UDP should be dissolved and therefore cease to exist as a political party."

Responding to the statement, Sinn Féin's Alex Maskey said: "The reality for well over a year now is that the UDA have been involved in a vicious anti-Catholic pogrom. They were involved in the disgraceful blockade of Holy Cross School and they continue to throw pipe bombs at Catholics on an almost nightly basis. The fact that the UDP existed has had little or no bearing on the situation on the ground, especially for Catholics in areas like North Belfast.

"What the UDA need to do is end their sectarian pogrom and allow people to live their lives without constant threat and intimidation."

Martin McGuinness MP expressed his concern about the situation in North Belfast, urging the UDA and dissident republicans who oppose the Good Friday Agreement to reconsider their actions. "They are not going to succeed. The road which we are travelling, the road of the Good Friday Agreement and the road of the peace process is not one which are going to be easily shifted off," he said.

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