Belfast Telegraph

Watchdog condemned over UVF group

A Government watchdog that blamed the leadership of the loyalist Ulster Volunteer Force for a killing has been criticised for failing to order sanctions against the group.

Bobby Moffett, 43, was gunned down in front of shoppers in Belfast in May in a shooting that was widely blamed on members of the UVF, despite it being on ceasefire.

The Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) has now confirmed the group's leadership sanctioned the killing, but the watchdog that monitors paramilitary activity advised Government not to take action against the UVF at this time.

The UVF, which killed more than 500 people during the Troubles, is on a long-term ceasefire and had decommissioned weapons and supposedly renounced violence before the killing.

The IMC said Mr Moffett, a former prisoner with loyalist links, was involved in a dispute with UVF leaders.

"From this analysis, and from our extensive inquiries, we conclude that: the murder was committed by members of the UVF acting as such; these members had sanction at central leadership level," the IMC report said.

It added: "There were two main reasons for the murder and the way in which it was committed: to stop Mr Moffett's perceived flouting of UVF authority, and to send a message to the organisation and the community that this authority was not to be challenged.

"Senior leadership in the UVF could have prevented the murder had it determined to do so."

The IMC stopped short of advising Government to impose legal sanctions on the UVF, and explained: "The murder does not blind us to the progress the UVF has made hitherto, or of itself mean that the process will be reversed."

SDLP leader Margaret Ritchie said: "The fact that the IMC do not recommend to the Secretary of State that the UVF's ceasefire should be recategorised sends out very worrying signals."

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