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Last Updated:  Thursday, 20 February, 2003, 15:25 GMT
UDA move 'not decommissioning'
UDA pipe bombs
Government says the UDA move is not an act of decommissioning
The handover of pipe bombs by loyalist paramilitaries was not part of the decommissioning process, Security Minister Jane Kennedy has said.

Army bomb experts took away 18 pipe bombs for forensic examination after they were dumped by the outlawed Ulster Defence Association.

It left the devices at playing fields in the Crumlin Road area of Belfast on Wednesday night.

In a statement, the UDA claimed it wanted the devices put beyond use to help restore normality following a recent feud within the organisation.

It said: "Tonight the west Belfast brigade of the Ulster Defence Association left pipe bombs at Ewart's playing fields to be disposed of by the security services.

I'm told the official made clear that the only way that immunity could happen would be if the UDA was prepared to go down the De Chastelain route
Brian Rowan
BBC NI security editor

"We took this action to eradicate pipe bombs from our community as part of the ongoing steps to stabilise and normalise loyalist west Belfast."

Loyalists have insisted the move was not an act of decommissioning.

Mrs Kennedy said: "This act has very much to be welcomed. But it is not an act of decommissioning - it has not been done through the auspices of the decommissioning commission.

"It has been a matter entirely handled by the police."

She called on all loyalist and republican paramilitaries to re-engage with the Independent International Commission for Decommissioning to "ensure all weapons and explosives can be safely taken out of circulation".

A police spokeswoman said: "As a result of information received, police have discovered what appears to be a number of devices in the area of Ewart's Bowling Club at Summerdale Park in north Belfast."

'Step to normality'

BBC Northern Ireland security editor Brian Rowan said Mr McCoubrey had contacted the NIO on a separate matter last week.

"That meeting happened on Tuesday morning... it was at that meeting that the issue of getting rid of some pipe bombs was first discussed," he said.

"The issue of immunity was raised. I'm told the official made clear that the only way that could happen would be if the UDA was prepared to go down the De Chastelain route.

"It developed that the UDA didn't want to go down that route. I'm told there was another meeting later on Tuesday between some people on the loyalist side and the police."

I hope that this isn't another stunt by the UDA simply to rehabilitate themselves after some very bad publicity over the past number of months
Alban Maginness
SDLP

Independent loyalist councillor Frank McCoubrey said it was another step to bring normality back to the Shankill Road area.

"I have no doubt if the organisation had not taken this step these pipe bombs could have caused misery to our community," he said.

West Belfast community worker Jackie Hewitt said he was delighted at the move and felt things were going to change on the Shankill.

"I think west Belfast is now united and seeking a way forward. I think this has come from the whole of west Belfast," he said.

North Belfast SDLP assembly member Alban Maginness, whose home has been targeted by pipe bombers in the past, said the UDA had to make more than a token gesture.

He said: "I hope that this isn't another stunt by the UDA simply to rehabilitate themselves after some very bad publicity over the past number of months."

Four people died in the latest feud within the UDA following the expulsion of jailed loyalist leader Johnny Adair.

That dispute appeared to come to an end last week when Adair's supporters, including his wife Gina and associate John White, fled their homes in the Shankill Road area.

Adair was returned to prison last month when Secretary of State Paul Murphy revoked his early release licence for his involvement in "a litany of terrorist crimes".



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SEE ALSO:
UDA 'not behind death threats'
14 Feb 03 |  Northern Ireland


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