Help Terrorists Choose Politics, Loyalists Tell PM; Group Urges Government to Steer UDA towards Path of Peace

The News Letter (Belfast, Northern Ireland), February 24, 2003 | Go to article overview

Help Terrorists Choose Politics, Loyalists Tell PM; Group Urges Government to Steer UDA towards Path of Peace


Byline: DAN McGINN

LOYALISTS have urged the Government to work with them to take the paramilitary group the Ulster Defence Association down a purely political path.

Belfast councillor Frank McCoubrey, of the Ulster Political Research Group, made the appeal following Saturday's declaration from the UDA of a 12-month ceasefire.

Mr McCoubrey also said the Ulster Political Research Group was willing to enter into talks with the Government about how it could help efforts to steer the UDA away from paramilitarism.

"We are very pleased with the reaction to the UDA, Ulster Freedom Fighters and Ulster Young Militants' statement,'' he responded.

"Obviously there is some scepticism out there in the community but I would appeal to those who are sceptical to bear with the UPRG as we work over the next year to steer the association down a political route.

"Give us the time and space we require.

"We are also encouraged by the response of the Government and Secretary of State, Paul Murphy, and would say to the NIO the ball is in your court.

"The Ulster Political Research Group is open to talks with the Government if it is genuinely interested in working with us in leading the organisation down the political road.''

At the weekend the UDA announced a 12-month period of ''military inactivity'' which would be reviewed every three months.

It also confirmed it was appointing a representative to re-engage with Canadian General John de Chastelain's disarmament commission and announced a major overhaul of the UDA's structures, insisting a greater emphasis would be put in developing the Ulster Political Research Group as its public face.

In the wake of the bitter feud within the UDA, which led to the killing of its South Antrim Brigadier John Gregg, the reimprisonment of Johnny Adair and the expulsion of his supporters from their west Belfast power base, the association's chiefs are anxious never to again feature in tabloid newspaper headlines.

As part of its rehabilitation, the UDA also denounced drug use and dealing, pledged to do all it could to end sectarian clashes between loyalist communities and their nationalist neighbours in Belfast and elsewhere and to work with Protestant marching organisations to alleviate tensions. …

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