Sunday Life

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Secret peace talks will lead to cash bonanza for terror groups


Lambeth Palace in London, the London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Lambeth Palace in London, the London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Lambeth Palace in London, the London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Secret peace talks between government officials and loyalist and republicans are expected to recommend millions of pounds of funding for their arms length bodies.

The revelation will further enrage victims groups who only learned of the negotiations when Sunday Life revealed in October how UVF chiefs Bunter Graham and Harry Stockman met the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and former Secretary of State Peter Mandelson.

It has since emerged that other summits were held at the church leader’s Lambeth Palace residence in London with ex-IRA prisoner Sean ‘Spike’ Murray, academics and senior police.

Central to the discussions were how to deal with legacy issues and financial support for projects in loyalist and republican areas that have the backing of paramilitaries.

This, they argue, will help them move from criminality into established community roles. The money will come from the government’s £50million Fresh Start package to end paramilitarism.

A UVF source told Sunday Life: “We expect the government to commit to a funding package stretching for at least five years to help members of the organisation transform into the ACT Initiative (Action for Community Transformation).

“This will ensure former paramilitaries can transition into community roles with confidence. Obviously there will be opposition voices, but this is one of the positive aspects to come from the talks.”

ACT was registered as a charity in 2017 and last year pulled in £290,000 of public funding.

Republicans are also seeking a slice of the same cash pie and like loyalists are asking for around £5m of funding for their projects.

Victims campaigner Kenny Donaldson has branded the meetings a “new legacy forum” and warned that “innocent victims and survivors of terrorism won’t be railroaded by a political agenda”.

He said: “What is even more maddening is those who have been excluded from this forum are the victims themselves.”

Politicians have also expressed concern at the secret talks, with Ulster Unionist MLA Doug Beattie saying: “We will not stand idly by and watch as unelected and unrepresentative elements make decisions that will affect Northern Ireland for decades to come and allow terrorists to dictate the terms of legacy investigation over the interests of victims.”

Belfast Telegraph