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Ulster Volunteer Force statement concerns

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Sceala Irish Craic Forum Discussion:     Ulster Volunteer Force statement concerns

There are expressions of welcome and concerns in Ireland over the wording of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) statement of peace. In the statement today the UVF claims that it is renouncing violence and will cease to exist as a terrorist organization. The UVF through a statement By one of its senior members Gusty Spence said, it had put its weapons beyond use and had also ceased all recruitment, training and targeting. Spence said the UVF will keep its weapons, but has put them beyond reach, he said its weapons would be stored in a number of arms dumps under the control of the UVF leadership, but not accessible for use by members.
Speaking in Fernhill House in west Belfast on Thursday, Gusty Spence said that from midnight, the UVF and its associated group, the Red Hand Commando, "will assume a non-military, civilianised role". As part of this move, he said the organisation had implemented a number of measures to deal with what it called the "transformation from a military to a civilian organisation".
The UVF declared a ceasefire 13 years ago, but since then its members have been blamed for more than 20 murders.
The statement also condemned any criminal activity by its members, and said they should "cooperate fully with the lawful authorities in all possible instances". The UVF has accepted that "the IRA's war is over" and said it was making this move now because it was satisfied that the north of Ireland's place within the United Kingdom was now safe. The statement Spence read out said: "We have taken the above measures in an earnest attempt to augment the return of accountable democracy to the people of the north of Ireland and as such, to engender confidence that the constitutional question has now been firmly settled."
There was also a call to the government to tackle the threat from republican dissidents, and a warning that these activities could "provoke another generation of loyalists toward armed resistance".
The UVF and its linked group, the Red Hand Commando, are a british loyalist organization responsible for hundreds of murders and injuries, bombings and shootings in the recent troubles. Violently opposed to Irish unity, the UVF targeted anyone identified with being Irish, their aim was to terrify the whole Irish community. The UVF's victims were mainly innocent Irish civilians, including local GAA sports officials and random people spotted in what are termed Roman Catholic areas. Their random targets had only one link, they were people who they believed would be likely sympathetic to a independent united Ireland. The man who made the statement Gusty Spence himself was convicted for the murder of an innocent young Irish man walking home to a Roman Catholic area.

Some Politicians, and church groups have been guarded in their response and called for full decommissioning of all weapons.
The leaders of the Ireland's four main churches meeting in Armagh described the UVF statement as an important move in the right direction, but also expressed disappointment that weaponry is not being put beyond use definitively.
The body that oversees paramilitary disarmament said it was concerned about the UVF's intention to deal with its arms without involving it. General John de Chastelain's Independent International Commission on Decommissioning urged the loyalist group to work with it to destroy the arsenal. An IICD spokesman said without the commission's involvement, the UVF's action on arms does not meet the requirement of the decommissioning legislation, and the provisions of the Good Friday Agreement.
President Mary McAleese, who is on an official visit to the US, also welcomed the UVF statement as a move in the right direction, but added that there are more steps that will need to be taken and added that she is conscious of the reaction of the decommissioning body.
The Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern expressed sympathy for their victims including those killed in the Dublin and Monaghan bombs. Mr Ahern adding he looked forward to the full decommissioning of their guns.
Martin McGuinness of Sinn Fein said if the statement represented a very clear indication from the UVF they are going to discontinue the holding of information and threatening people, then that had to be welcomed.
The Northern Secretary Peter Hain said the announcement was a further welcome confirmation that the north of Ireland was emerging into a new and positive era, and that people must now give this development a chance.
The DUP leader Dr Ian Paisley said he hoped it would bring peace completely to the North. The DUP's Peter Robinson said: "The decision that the UVF is moving to a civilian mode is undoubtedly a major development and it is critical that all paramilitary groups follow this clear path."
The Progressive Unionist Party's Billy Hutchinson said the UVF weapons had not been put beyond use, but they had been put beyond reach.
However, the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning urged the UVF to work with it to destroy its weaponry. It said it welcomed the statement, but was "concerned by their intention to deal with their arms without the involvement of the IICD".
The SDLP's Patsy McGlone said there was "a yawning credibility gap for the UVF on the issue of targeting and intelligence-gathering".
The Ulster Unionist Party's Fred Cobain said: "We hope it signals the destruction of materials of war so that they cannot again be used to inflict harm."
The PSNI said: "Whilst we welcome today's announcement, individuals and organisations will be judged by their actions - actions always speak louder than words."

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