Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 September 2014

UDA was planning a 'significant statement'

Ritchie's fund stance puts move in jeopardy

A senior UDA leader has told the Belfast Telegraph that the paramilitary organisation had planned to make a "significant statement" on its future on Remembrance Sunday - November 11.

But Jackie McDonald says that could now be "put on hold" if the Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie withdraws funding for a loyalist conflict transformation initiative.

The minister has given the UDA until October 9 to deliver on decommissioning - the endpoint in a 60-day deadline she set back in August.

McDonald claims what was planned for November 11 was a "significant statement" indicating " significant progress" and claims the Northern Ireland Office has known about it for some time.

But he is still ruling out any imminent move on decommissioning.

"That's for the organisation to decide," he told this newspaper. "They can't be seen to be giving up guns for money or for jobs for the boys. The rank and file wouldn't have it."

McDonald refused to discuss the detail of the planned November 11 statement, but claimed it would amount to "very, very, significant progress".

He said the UDA leadership would discuss the situation after the minister makes her decision.

" The CTI (Conflict Transformation Initiative) can't deliver guns because they haven't got any - nor has the UPRG," McDonald stated.

The Ulster Political Research Group is seen as the political wing of the UDA - and a number of its members are employed in the conflict transformation initiative.

Margaret Ritchie set her deadline for decommissioning after the UDA was linked to street violence in Carrickfergus and Bangor.

But, in recent days, both the police and the Independent Monitoring Commission have said there is absolutely nothing to indicate that the paramilitary organisation plans to move on the arms issue.

McDonald told this newspaper: "No deadline has been stuck to in this country. There has to be room for manoeuvre.

"They (the UDA) can't deliver anything," he continued, "because she (the minister) wants guns."

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