Talks fuel speculation on UDA, UVF disbandment
The husband of the Irish President held secret talks with the UDA
in Belfast last week amid growing speculation about an imminent
announcement by the unionist paramilitary group.
Martin McAleese met up to 10 senior figures from the UDA and its
associated Ulster Political Research Group (UPRG), including Ihab
Shoukri, Jackie McDonald, Billy McFarlane, Tommy Kirkham and
Frankie Gallagher in a south Belfast on Wednesday afternoon.
Unusually Mr McAleese had no police bodyguards during his meeting
with the loyalists.
Mr McAleese has been a key figure in efforts to encourage an end
to unionist paramilitary violence.
The private talks are understood to have centered on a package
which both the Dublin and London governments are offering to the
unionist communities in exchange for UDA movement on disbandment
It was understood to be the first time that Mr McAleese had met
Ihab Shoukri, who is awaiting trial on UDA membership charges.
It was also reported that UPRG leader Tommy Kirkham met British
Direct Ruler Peter Hain in private on Tuesday.
After yesterday's meeting with Mr McAleese UDA south Belfast
'brigadier' Jackie McDonald said: "Martin McAleese was there to
hear what we had to say and we were there to listen to him.
"We are meeting a range of people, including the governments, to
try and find a way forward.
"It is unrealistic for anyone to expect loyalists to move forward
without help for working-class communities."
Mr McDonald confirmed that he was aware of a possible
announcement that the UFF [a cover name for the UDA] was being
disbanded but ruled out any imminent move on weapons.
"I can see that situation [UDA disbandment] coming about in
certain circumstances," he said
"From what I understand, it is being discussed.
"But decommissioning isn't on the radar. It hasn't been discussed
at this stage."
While Mr McDonald would not be drawn on any imminent UDA
announcement, it is reported that the paramilitary leadership was
briefing its members on the possible deal with the two
Meanwhile, speculation in a Sunday newspaper has suggested that
the Ulster Volunteer Force, the second largest unionist
paramilitary group, is "going out of business".
A UVF leader was reported by6 the Obsesrver nespaper to have
said: 'The UVF is going out of business because there is no need
for it any more. The IRA's war is over, republicans have accepted
the principle of consent. It doesn't make sense to go on. If we
are not being attacked by armed republicanism any more, then
there is no point in having a UVF.'
However, the UVF has no plans to disarm.
"The weapons will be put into deep freeze as a reassurance for
those worried about future events," the source said.