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Wednesday, November 18, 1998 Published at 17:56 GMT


LVF cancels decommissioning

The LVF has changed its mind on decommissioning

The LVF's representative on decommissioning says the terrorist group has cancelled plans to hand over its weapons.

The Loyalist Volunteer Force had said it would begin decommissioning on Thursday morning.


[ image: Ken Maginnis described the group as
Ken Maginnis described the group as "ruthless sectarian killers"
Spokesman Kenny McClinton said the leadership changed their minds after comments by Ulster Unionist MP Ken Maginnis.

But he said the process would begin by Christmas.

Northern Ireland Secretary Mo Mowlam announced her decision to accept the LVF's ceasefire as genuine last week.

The group was one of the last paramilitary organisations in the province to refuse to renounce violence and some politicians feared it had done so solely to take account of prisoner release arrangements in the Good Friday Agreement.

Mr McClinton insisted the groups latest move was not a ploy to avoid decommissioning now that LVF prisoners had been accepted in the early release scheme.

During a debate in the House of Commons on Tuesday evening, Mr Maginnis described the LVF as "ruthless sectarian killers" and warned that the issue of prisoner releases was creating "immense difficulties" in the peace process.

Mr McClinton said the delay in the hand over of weapons was caused only by these remarks.


[ image: Billy Wright: The LVF leader was murdered in prison]
Billy Wright: The LVF leader was murdered in prison
The LVF earned a reputation for brutal violence towards Catholics in Northern Ireland after it was set up as a breakaway wing of the Ulster Volunteer Force.

It returned to prominence last year when its leader Billy "King Rat" Wright was shot dead inside the infamous Maze Prison, where many paramilitary prisoners are held.

It refused to accept a ceasefire throughout the Stormont negotiations, but has since changed its mind and had promised to lead the way on decommissioning.

The Irish Republican Army continues to refuse to hand over any of its weapons stocks and its political wing Sinn Fein insists this issue cannot be linked to other parts of the Good Friday deal.

The LVF had demanded the IRA give up 10 times as many guns as it renounced.



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