Page last updated at 05:47 GMT, Friday, 24 April 2009 06:47 UK

Loyalist meeting 'significant'

Cardinal Sean Brady
Cardinal Sean Brady will urge loyalists to reject violence

The head of the Catholic church in Ireland and loyalists connected to the paramilitary UDA have held face-to-face talks for the first time.

Cardinal Sean Brady met an Ulster Political Research Group delegation at his private residence in Armagh.

Cardinal Brady said the meeting had been "highly significant."

He said he was encouraged by an assurance given by the UPRG that there would be "no going back to the past."

Reading a statement after the meting he said: "We conveyed to the UPRG the real fear that exists within the Catholic community about the possibility of future violent activity by Loyalist groups.

"We appreciate and are greatly encouraged by the assurance given by the UPRG today that together we are building a new future.

"There is no going back.

"The only viable future for Northern Ireland is a totally peaceful and reconciled future based on mutual respect and a shared commitment to peaceful and democratic means of dealing with age-old political differences.

"Our meeting today with the UPRG is, in my view, a reason to be hopeful about the future."

Guns

While the issue of UDA decommissioning had expected to be on the agenda during the two-hour meeting, UPRG spokesman Frankie Gallagher said the issue was not discussed.

He said the matter of the UDA's continued possession of guns was a matter for that organisation to address itself.

He added: "We acknowledge the concerns expressed by Cardinal Brady of the fears that exist within the Catholic community as many of the Protestant community share similar fears from extreme Nationalist elements," he said.

"These elements want to take us back to a bloody past where many lives were lost; we hope that today's meeting has gone some way to alleviating those fears and understand that a lot more work is still to be done.

"The UPRG states quite clearly, there will be no going back; we are building a new future."



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