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Last Updated:  Sunday, 23 February, 2003, 13:18 GMT
Cautious welcome for loyalist move
Frank McCourbrey, Tommie Kirkham and Frankie Gallagher at the press conference in east Belfast
The statement was released by the Ulster Political Research Group
A decision by the loyalist paramilitary Ulster Defence Association to end paramilitary activity for 12 months has been welcomed by the Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy.

Mr Murphy said Saturday's statement from the organisation, which was released through the Ulster Political Research Group, was "a step in the right direction".

However, he added the move "must result in a permanent end to paramilitary activity in all its aspects".

The UDA said it would be restructuring the organisation, but added its position on decommissioning had not changed.

The group said it would only hand over weapons once the republican movement had done so.

The UDA ceasefire has not been recognised since October 2001 when the then secretary of state, John Reid, declared it over following a series of sectarian pipe bombings, murder and attacks on the police.

Speaking on Saturday, Mr Murphy said: "I welcome the commitment to re-engage with the Decommissioning Body, to work to defuse tension at the interfaces and the recognition of the damage that drug abuse does to the community.

They have never said their cessation was ended which means that while they were saying they were on cessation they were killing people
Gerry Kelly
Sinn Fein

"The communities that have suffered most grievously over the past 30 years and more, are often those which were severely disadvantaged in the first place."

Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble said the announcement was "a welcome and positive development".

Mr Trimble's party colleague David McNarry said the ceasefire was a positive step.

Speaking to the BBC on Sunday, Mr McNarry who sits on the Loyalist Commission, said the development should be given a chance.

"It has been very appropriate that the UDA as the major organisation in terms of numbers and size have made this step and I think they can go forward from that," he said.

'Faceless'

"But we have got to help them go forward to stabilise Northern Ireland and to make the politics of Northern Ireland work."

However, Sinn Fein assembly member Gerry Kelly said people would treat the UDA statement with scepticism.

"Any genuine cessation would of course be welcomed," he said.

"We have to be factual, the UDA have killed people. They have never said their cessation was ended which means that while they were saying they were on cessation they were killing people

"There are nearly 500 gun and bomb attacks they have been involved in so people will be very sceptical about any statement they have made."

I welcome the commitment to re-engage with the decommissioning body, to work to defuse tension at the interfaces and the recognition of the damage that drug abuse does to the community
Paul Murphy
Secretary of State

UPRG spokesperson Frankie Gallagher said the UDA would not go away until the threat of republican violence had gone.

However, he said the move was designed to help loyalists "face the challenges of political change".

Nationalist SDLP leader Mark Durkan gave a "qualified welcome" to the UDA statement.

"If this is about saving face, then people will be sceptical," he said.

"If it means saving lives, then people will welcome it."

Saturday's statement also deals with the drugs issue and the UDA encourages its members not to add to the problem in Northern Ireland.

However, the organisation is steeped in drugs crime and some who sit at its top table are the most heavily involved.

The UDA leadership is publicly known but the organisation says it intends to become "faceless".

The statement follows a handover of pipe bombs by the group on Wednesday.

The move, in which 18 devices were dumped in north Belfast, to be defused by army bomb experts, was not part of the decommissioning process.

The UDA said it wanted the devices put beyond use to help restore normality following a recent feud within the organisation.

Four people died in the feud within the organisation 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".




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Mark Simpson
"The announcement came as a surprise"


BBC NI's Andy Martin:
"Those closest to the UDA leadership seem convinced that this time the group means business"



SEE ALSO:
Analysis: Is the ceasefire for real?
22 Feb 03  |  Northern Ireland
UDA move 'not decommissioning'
20 Feb 03  |  Northern Ireland
UDA 'not behind death threats'
14 Feb 03  |  Northern Ireland
Reid acted on 'ceasefire farce'
12 Oct 01  |  Northern Ireland
Loyalist group shuns Adair
04 Feb 03  |  Northern Ireland


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