UDA decommissioning is excellent news for Northern Ireland

News that the Ulster Defence Association has decommissioned, beyond use, all its weapons has received a warm welcome across the political community in NI.

News that the Ulster Defence Association has decommissioned, beyond use, all its weapons has received a warm welcome across the political community in Northern Ireland, providing welcome good news in the midst of tough negotiations on the devolution of policing and Justice.

In a statement read by Frankie Gallagher of the organisation’s political analysis wing, the UDA said:

“Today, the leadership of the Ulster Defence Association can confirm that all weaponry under its control has been put verifiably beyond use.”

The move was confirmed by the Independent Decommissioning Body, led by the Canadian General, John de Chastelain.

For the DUP, Jeffrey Donaldson, Junior Minister in the Office of First and Deputy First Minister said:

The DUP welcomes the news that the UDA has decommissioned its illegally held weaponry. This will be welcomed throughout our country. The Party has been working for a considerable time to remove all illegal weapons from the streets of Northern Ireland and to deliver universal support for policing and the rule of law.

“The DUP will continue to work for the elimination of all paramilitary structures from our society.”

Concurring with the DUP’s sentiments, Sinn Fein’s Junior Minister in the Office of First and Deputy First Minister, Gerry Kelly, said:

“Firstly if this statement by the UDA is verified by the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning then it is a substantial move forward. The Nationalist and Unionist populations will both be relieved that a substantial amount of guns are being taken off our streets and nationalists communities in particular would rest much easier as a result of that.

“There can be no place for guns as we move forward in advancing the political process, this process has been about taking the gun out of Irish politics.”

Speaking for the UK Government, Northern Ireland Secretary Shaun Woodward praised what he described as “a major act of political leadership by the UDA”, saying:

“For those other groups still intending to decommission, I remind them of my deadline which expires next month. The scheme will end.

“And any other groups, currently engaged with the IICD, should take advantage now of this legislation, putting all their weapons beyond use.”

Reaction from Dublin was equally positive, with Foreign Minister Micheál Martin saying:

“This is an important day for the people of Northern Ireland. I would like to express the Government’s appreciation to the loyalist leadership and all those who contributed to the courageous work which facilitated this decision for peace.

“It completes the process of decommissioning by the main loyalist paramilitary organisations, including the arms previously put beyond use by the UVF and Red Hand Commandos.

“This is a statement of confidence in the political process and in the devolved institutions, one which moves us closer to that genuinely shared future for which so many have worked over decades. Another obstacle to dialogue and partnership has been removed.”

With talk that the devolved institutions might be at threat as a result of a logjam in negotiations over devolving policing and justice, the news from the UDA should send a powerful message. However difficult things get, great progress has been made in Northern Ireland.

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