British government to recognise UVF ceasefire

British government to recognise UVF ceasefire

A loyalist ceasefire in North is to be recognised, the Northern Ireland Secretary said today.

The Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) and Red Hand Commando (RHC) will be despecifed, with any prisoners eligible for early release, Shaun Woodward added.

The Government ceased to recognise the UVF’s peace commitment in September 2005 following a feud.

However, dissident republican group Oglaigh na hEireann (ONH) has been proscribed after being found to be involved in terrorism.

Mr Woodward said: "Under legislation I am obliged to review the status of all specified and other paramilitary organisations and I have today laid an order before Parliament seeking approval to de-specify the UVF and RHC.

“Their statement of last May committed the organisation to assuming a non-military civilianised role. Government undertook to review the position at that time and we have now taken a careful look at the organisation’s position.

“In the light of this and in acknowledgement of their commitment and additional factors, I have therefore concluded that there are sufficient grounds to de-specify the UVF/RHC.”

The early release provisions apply to anybody convicted before the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which paved the way for political power-sharing in the North.

The UVF has come under pressure to decommission its weapons.

It said last May that it was putting its arms beyond reach – but not handing them over.

In September 2005 the Northern Ireland Office said it would no longer recognise its ceasefire after it was involved in running battles with the rival Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF).

Loyalists clashed with police following the re-routing of an Orange Order parade in Whiterock, West Belfast, that month.

The UVF had also been linked to four recent murders, related to its feud with the LVF.

Leader of the Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) Dawn Purvis welcomed today’s announcement.

“This is a recognition of the work carried out and progress made since the statement of intent of May last year.

“This is further evidence of Northern Ireland’s strides towards normality.”

The Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) has blamed Oglaigh na h'Eireann for the murder Andrew Burns, aged 27, of Strabane, County Tyrone, in February.

The organisation, which reports on paramilitary activity, said Strabane members of the specified dissident republican group were likely to have been responsible for his murder.

It reported that he had been a fellow recruit. His body was found with gunshot wounds near a church in Doneyloop, County Donegal.

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