Normality inched just a little closer to-day with the Ulster Defence Association’s announcement that one part of its organisation, The Ulster Freedom Fighters, is to stand down. The time set for this significant move is midnight, 11th November 2007. The UDA also said that weapons are to be put “beyond use” but it still remains a mystery how this is to be done given that the organisation has not yet engaged with the decommissioning body. in fact, the statement expressly say that “beyond use” does not mean decommissioned!
The UDA statement says:-
“The Ulster Defence Association believes that the war is over, and we are now in a new democratic dispensation that will lead to permanent political stability.”
But the BBC quotes one UDA leader, Jackie McDonald, as saying:-
“90% of people in the loyalist community don’t want de-commissioning.”
So how are we to know for certain that the UFF are not just playing possum? Surely, this is the perfect time for the UDA to engage seriously with the decommissioning body? Given that the UDA are responsible for more than 400 murders to date most people will feel safer if the weapons are destroyed in front of independent witnesses.
It is a welcome sign that the UDA has condemned criminal activity in Loyalist areas and urged anyone with information on criminal activity to pass this on to police. Hopefully, this will lead to a downturn in drug dealing, intimidation, counterfeiting and all the other unsavory activity that has plagued these areas in recent years.
The statement says:-
“It is the duty of every member to understand that to be involved in crime or criminality is to undermine the cause. We have had those who joined our ranks for political reasons; these men went on to give great sacrifice and brought honour to the organisation . . . But there have been those who joined for crime and self-gain. These people must be rooted out and never be allowed to breathe in our ranks.
“These people have been involved in drug dealing, and this must be stamped out. Drugs destroy our children, and our children are our future. These people are not loyalists, they are criminals. There is no place in the organisation for such people.”
With a new willingness to concentrate on legal activities perhaps there will be a massive rise in creative entrepreneurship which will boast jobs in these areas.
And so we inch closer to normality….. its a painful process but one we need to go through. Now if we can convince all the other hard nuts that the war is over we will make rapid progress. Come on the REAL IRA… time to join in. The future is this way…..
(Read more on this story in the Times Online: Loyalist terror group to be ‘stood down with all weapons out of use’ )