UDA confirms it has decommissioned guns

LEADERS of the Ulster Defence Association have confirmed it has decommissioned all weapons under its control.

Northern Ireland’s largest loyalist paramilitary group put the remainder of its arsenal out of use in recent weeks.

The paramilitary organisation, responsible for some of the bloodiest atrocities during the conflict, had already put a small number of guns beyond use last June.

The act was facilitated by the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning (IICD) under the leadership of General John De Chastelain.

The disarmament was verified by two independent witnesses – former Church of Ireland primate Robin Eames and former top civil servant and chair of the Ulster Bank George Quigley.

The announcement was made at the Stormont Hotel in Belfast by the UDA’s political representative, the Ulster Political Research Group (UPRG).

UPRG leader Frankie Gallagher said: “The leadership of the Ulster Defence Association can confirm that all weaponry under its control has been put verifiably beyond use.

“This historic decision has been taken as a result of unprecedented consultation of all brigade areas throughout the British Isles.”

Mr Gallagher said he wanted to pay tribute to former UDA members who had died or been imprisoned during the Troubles.

“To all those in the community who have lost loved ones, we understand and we share in your sense of loss but we are determined and are willing to play our full part in ensuring that tragedy of the last 40 years will never happen again.”

Mr Gallagher also categorically denied that the decommissioning was bought with the offer of Government investment in loyalist areas. He said the move paved the way for a new future for Northern Ireland and helped close the door on the past.

“The Ulster Defence Association was formed to defend our communities; we state quite clearly and categorically that this responsibility now rests with the Government and its institutions where legitimacy resides,” he said.

“The opportunity now presents itself for all political parties to create an era where all our communities can benefit from stability, investment and growth within this region of the United Kingdom and enjoy the benefits of freedom and diversity.

“We have fulfilled our obligations, our commitment remains intact and we trust the future for all the people of these islands will be one of equality, harmony and fulfilment and those future generations will achieve their aspirations and dreams in an environment of peace and prosperity.”

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