Belfast Telegraph

Brian Rowan: UVF set for arms deal - but where's the cache?

With the UVF poised for major changes, Brian Rowan warns that any end to paramilitary activity must be accompanied by the destruction of their weapons

It was a pointed comment and it was said for a purpose.

The senior security source who spoke to this newspaper earlier this week wanted the UVF to hear what he was saying - hear it before that organisation issues its statement on "future intent".

That statement - expected very soon - has been in the making for a number of years, the endpoint of a long internal consultation process inside the UVF and associated Red Hand Commando.

And inside the intelligence world they have a pretty good idea about what's going to be said.

They've had a long time to put their jigsaw together, and they know what the loyalists are thinking about doing and not doing with their weapons.

That's what brought the very specific comment from that senior security source when he spoke to this newspaper a few days ago.

"People who think they can have a private army and weapons ? bunkered or not ? (need to know) it's not a runner."

In that sentence that source revealed the loyalist plan.

There will be no decommissioning. Instead, the loyalists will use words to explain that their weapons have been put away by them and by their quartermasters never to be used again.

But who will believe them?

More than a hundred people have just been warned that their details have been found in the hands of the loyalist organisation.

And, yes, when it speaks, the UVF may well tell us that all intelligence information it has gathered over the years is now "obsolete", and, yes, that will be an important statement.

But its decision on its weapons has all the potential to make small a statement of considerable significance.

How can you end your war and keep your guns?

The UVF started talking to itself about all of this before the IRA decisions of 2005 - the initiative that ended the armed campaign and led to the decommissioning seen by the witnesses Alec Reid and Harold Good.

That putting beyond use of IRA weapons happened at nine different locations.

And all of that has set a new standard.

The UVF has had two years to adjust its thinking ? to do what the IRA did, to do something that will fit into the new circumstances and the new political era of Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness.

As that security source commented earlier this week, "May 8 changes everything."

The loyalist paramilitary leadership is about to change the UVF and Red Hand Commando ? order an end to many of its activities, but in clinging to its weapons, it is making a huge mistake.

To quote a senior political source, it is leaving its statement open to " ridicule".

Will any of that matter to the UVF?

Is it likely to change anything at this late stage? The loyalists are going to put their own guns away. They know what others will think and say about all of that.

But there is a "so be it" kind of attitude.

We should be able to read the small print very soon, and it will be then that a judgement will be made on the worth of this loyalist initiative.

That's when people will decide if this part of the loyalist war is really over.

Belfast Telegraph


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