By Julian O'Neill
Loyalist paramilitaries are going through a period of change, but at a much slower pace than the IRA, according to the 12th report of the Independent Monitoring Commission.
The report said leadership elements ofboth the Ulster Defence Association and the Ulster Volunteer Force remain committed to moving both organisations away from paramilitary activity and crime, but believed this was not happening at grassroots level.
The most damaging assessment concerned the UVF.
The UVF was behind more threats than any other loyalist group
The IMC reported that the attempted murder of north Belfast loyalist Mark Haddock was sanctioned by the group's leadership.
Haddock, 37, a former UVF member turned informer for the police, was shot six times in Newtownabbey last May.
Also, the report implicated UVF members in the murder of 36-year-old Ronald Mackie in Tobermore, County Londonderry, in July.
The Scotsman was visiting for a band parade and was attacked outside a social club. However, the IMC said the attack was not sanctioned by the UVF leadership.
The report said: "The murder of Ronald Mackie was, we believe the responsibility of a UVF member and associates although we do not think it was sanctioned.
"The attempted murder of Mark Haddock we think was sanctioned.
"The UVF was responsible for more threats against people than any other loyalist group over the 12 months to August 2006.
"Other forms of UVF criminality remain prevalent.
"That said, there have been some signs that people within the leadership have continued efforts to tackle criminality within the organisation and reduce its military capacity."
Turning to the UDA, the commission softened its tone from its last report when it said criminal activity had reached endemic levels. However, the IMC still acknowledged it remained a problem area for the UDA.
Crime is still a problem for the UDA, the report said
The report also stated that people associated with the UDA were behind the murder of Mark Christie, 36, in Bangor in August.
The alleged drug dealer was hacked to death by a gang armed with weapons which included a machete.
"Some indications of more positive leadership which this time have had a useful impact," the IMC said.
"At the same time there continues to be violence and a heavy involvement in crime amongst some members.
"It is likely that the murder of Mark Christie was committed by people connected with the UDA although we have no information to suggest it was sanctioned by the UDA leadership.
"Some individual units still recruit new members. Some have also continued efforts to obtain weapons.
"We think there is a genuine desire on the part of some leading members to steer the organisation away from crime. So far they have had mixed success."
Both loyalist groups are also blamed for carrying out a number of so-called punishment attacks, but at a much reduced level than previously.