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Last Updated: Saturday, 22 October 2005, 16:15 GMT 17:15 UK
'Call it a day', loyalists urged
Loyalist mural Sandy Row
Loyalists are being urged to follow the IRA move on arms
Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey has told his party conference the IRA has been defeated and it is time for loyalists to put their arms beyond use.

In his first address to the conference as UUP leader Sir Reg said the IRA had been exhausted by years of failure in its bid to get unionists to bend.

He said it was now time for loyalist paramilitaries to "call it a day" and put weapons beyond use.

Sir Reg promised to help those who took that step.

"Begin the job of decommissioning the fire power that has brought so much misery," he urged loyalists.

"The republican edifice you swore to tear down is severely weakened.

"Northern Ireland is moving on apace and loyalist paramilitaries need to recognise that they no longer have any reason to maintain their structures."

The Ulster Unionist leader criticised the IRA's failure to enagage in more transparent decommissioning, but said he welcomed the fact weapons were put beyond use "lock, stock and most of the barrels".

Last month, General de Chastelain, the head of the arms decommissioning body, said the IRA had now put all its arms beyond use.

Sir Reg Empey
Sir Reg addressed his first party conference as leader

The general said he was satisfied the IRA had given up all its weapons, and said he hoped loyalists would as well.

Loyalists are said to have an "on-off" relationship with the general.

Sir Reg told the conference that the DUP should not be allowed to take credit for gains won by the Ulster Unionists.

He also attacked those who "peddled the lie" that the peace process had been all pain for unionists and only gain for republicans.

He accused DUP leader Ian Paisley of "leaving a bad legacy of division within unionism".

Such infighting was counter-productive, he added.

The conference re-elected Lord Rogan as UUP president.

He defeated the former South Belfast MP Martin Smyth by 309 votes to 118 votes.

The UUP also elected a new team of party officers.

The successful candidates were Basil McCrea, May Steele, the former MLA Joan Carson and the Young Unionists Peter Bowles and Kenny Donaldson.


The event was also addressed by former Royal Irish Regiment officer, Colonel Tim Collins.

He told the conference that RIR soldiers set to lose their jobs when the three home-based battalions are disbanded in 2007 should be drafted into a second Territorial Army unit.

"They should be available to support the Police Service of Northern Ireland on a part-time basis as members of the Territorial Army," he said.

Mr Collins warned delegates they should not get involved in "an emotional fight against the inevitable" by trying to get the government to overturn their decision to disband the units.

However, he added that Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain should be "thoroughly ashamed" that many of the soldiers learned they were to lose their jobs from members of the public and the media.


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