The head of the Methodist Church has said the UDA must not be given any financial incentive to decommission.
Methodist president, the Rev Donald Ker welcomed loyalist decommissioning but expressed disappointment that it has not been completed by all such groupings.
He was speaking after it emerged last week that decommissioning among three loyalist groups had begun. The UVF and the smaller Red Hand Commando group are believed to have moved together in the first acts of loyalist decommissioning. The linked organisations are understood to have got rid of all weapons under their control, as well as ammunition and guns.
All of the UDA’s so-called ‘brigades’ have taken part in some decommissioning on orders from the terror group’s inner council leadership but it has not yet given up all its weapons.The UDA is understood to have asked the Government for millions of pounds and prisoner releases before it will decommission all of them.
The paramilitary group wants it to be used for funding of projects in loyalist areas.
“The act of decommissioning should not be dependent on either financial return or the release of people convicted and sentenced subsequent to the Good Friday Agreement,” Rev Ker said.
“It is rather a declaration that arms and ordinances have no further place in Northern Ireland.”
He added: “I believe that further financial assistance is needed to fund projects in loyalist areas. However, this should not be linked with the act of decommissioning but rather given on the merit of the projects themselves.”
General John de Chastelain, the head of the international decommissioning body, is expected to make a statement within days confirming that loyalist decommissioning has taken place. Gen de Chastelain and his colleagues on the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning arrived in Ireland a fortnight ago.