It is still unclear whether Northern Ireland’s largest loyalist terror group can end its involvement in organised crime and paramilitary activity, the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) said today.
In its latest report for the British and Irish governments, the IMC claimed the Ulster Defence Association has been involved in targeting members of the Loyalist Volunteer Force in anticipation of a possible feud sparked by the release from prison of expelled UDA leader Johnny Adair.
But the report also recommended that financial sanctions against the Progressive Unionist Party should continue because it was not exerting its influence to stop illegal activity by the Ulster Volunteer Force and Red Hand Commando.
The IMC’s report accused the UDA of murdering 22-year-old Darren Thompson, who was shot in the head in Derry in September 2004.
The report also said UDA members carried out a savage assault on 55-year-old Stephen Nelson, who died in hospital in March from head injuries sustained last September in the foyer of a hotel nightclub near Glengormley.
The four-member commission noted that, following meetings with former Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy, the UDA’s ceasefire was officially recognised by the Government last November as the organisation committed itself to ending all “military activity” and focusing on social and economic issues.
They said: “We have always recognised that transition may be a messy and difficult process for a paramilitary group.
“To date it is not clear if the UDA will achieve the transition it pointed to in its statement of November 2004.
“Certainly the process is still very far from complete and the fact remains that, during the period under review, it was responsible for two murders.”
The commission said the UDA was monitoring dissident republican terror groups should there be an attack on their members and also the rival LVF following the release from prison and relocation of notorious loyalist Adair to Bolton.
The UDA expelled two families from their homes in January and was involved in paramilitary-style shootings and beatings. It remained involved in organised crime and was behind two robberies in February and March.
The IMC’s report said the rival Ulster Volunteer Force and Red Hand Commando also remained active and violent and involved in organised crime.
The UVF continued to feud with the Loyalist Volunteer Force and had targeted and attempted to murder rivals. It was also recruiting.
“Our previous conclusion stands,” the IMC said.
“The UVF is active, violent and ruthless and is prepared to use violence to promote what it sees as the interests of the organisation.
“We believe it would undertake greater violence than in recent months if it judged that those interests so required.”
The commission said it was still of the opinion that the Progressive Unionist Party, which is aligned to the UVF and Red Hand Commando, was not doing enough to stop paramilitary and criminal activity.
“We therefore recommend that the Secretary of State should continue the financial measures against the PUP in the Northern Ireland Assembly,” its report recommended.
The IMC said the Loyalist Volunteer Force, a breakaway group from the UVF, remained heavily involved in drug dealing and had recruited members in some areas solely for that purpose.
The report noted that in January cannabis and ecstasy to the value of some £125,000 (€182,000) was discovered in Holywood, Co Down, along with LVF paraphernalia.
LVF members also fired shots at a taxi company with UVF connections in January, the report noted.
The commissioners said: “We conclude, as we did in our previous report, that with the striking exception of organised crime, especially in the form of drugs, the LVF remains less active than it used to be, shows no inclination to return to significant levels of violence but retains a capacity to do so should its intentions change.”
The commission said it was not in a position to comment on the disappearance of 25- year-old Bangor woman Lisa Dorrian in February, which has been linked to the LVF.
Nor was it able to comment at this stage on who was behind the killing of 34-year-old north Belfast man Stephen Montgomery in a hit-and-run incident on February 13.