12 November 2007

UFF stand down gets mixed response

The Ulster Freedom Fighters, the assassination unit of the Ulster Defence Association has finally stood down. In a statement released on Remembrance Sunday, the UDA said: "The Ulster Defence Association believes that the war is over, and we are now in a new democratic dispensation that will lead to permanent political stability.But we believe the political parties and the political institutions are themselves still in a period of transition. In that context, the organisation intends to continue through a process of transformation that will ultimately achieve a Northern Ireland based on equality, justice and inclusivity."

The group indicated that it would "put arms beyond use", but this did not mean the full destruction of its remaining arsenal. The other main loyalist terror group, the Ulster Volunteer Force, has said it will seal arms away. Senior UVF sources have said there would be no question of arms being destroyed or handed over to a third party.

However, the Belfast Telegraph reports today that pressure is mounting on the UDA to follow its words with actions. With the UFF stood down and its members ordered to end all criminality, the UDA has now been urged to spell out exactly what its new role is.

Victims' relatives, security forces and politicians from all sides told the UDA that words are not enough. Victims, politicians and security sources said that the UDA's statement is not enough and it will have to give up its guns. The DUP's Gregory Campbell said he believed the UDA has a lot to do to prove what they say. "If the statement takes them closer to where they need to get to that is fine, but they are going to have to get rid of their guns. People will remember that with the provisionals it only got to the point of moving forward when they agreed to get rid of their guns. It is exactly the same for the UDA." Mr Campbell added that it would be "worthwhile if a meaningful step was taken to apologise to their victims and not follow that apology creating more victims".

His party colleague Jeffrey Donaldson said he believed the UDA leadership had the support of the rank and file. "I welcome the statement that has been made. I think it is a clear step forward in the right direction. However, as we have done with all paramilitary groups we will judge the progress that is made by the activities that occur following the statement and that has to include an end to both criminal and paramilitary activity.

The mother of UDA murder victim Daniel McColgan (22), a postman shot dead by loyalist gunmen as he arrived for work five years ago, called the statement " meaningless words". However, Kathleen Tracey, whose brother Charlie McCafferty was one of five victims in the Annie's Bar massacre by the UFF at Top of the Hill in Londonderry in 1972, welcomed the move. "I suppose it's for the good. If it does any good, that's all we're looking for. If it takes things forward, we need to keep going forward, not going back, there's no point in going back," she said.

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