Loyalist paramilitaries ‘will not dissolve’ as long as the Irish Sea border remains in place
Loyalist paramilitaries are not prepared to embark on a process of dissolution as long as the Irish Sea border remains in place.
their inability to respond to calls from the Independent Commission of Inquiry to engage in means of disbandment raises the prospect of further paramilitary violence.
Opinions within the UVF and UDA are divided on the way forward with a substantial element in favor of a move towards dissolution.
But the Sunday World can reveal, however, that the hawks are hampering the process, and the outcome of the ongoing talks between the UK government and Brussels is key to their future existence.
Loyalist paramilitary sources told Sunday World that the likelihood of further violence is “extremely high”.
They said the initial optimism about the outcome of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement talks was quickly waning.
According to a well-placed source: “We reserve the right to defend our citizenship and if that means blaming our dissolution, then too bad.
The source, a veteran UVF member, said there are many within the organization – mostly veterans – who are in favor of a process that will see them relegated to the pages of history.
IRC was created in 2017 as part of Fresh Start two years earlier. The four-person commission is made up of former Human Rights Commissioner Professor Monica McWilliams, former Irish Ambassador to Washington Tim O’Connor, lawyer John McBurney and former US special envoy to Northern Ireland Mitchel Reiss.
They call for the formation of a formal body with representation from all interested parties, including governments and organizations such as the Independent Commission for the Location of the Remains of Victims.
If established, the process would mirror the one that led to the signing of the Good Friday Agreement and incorporate a downgrade process.
But the Commission recognizes that nearly a quarter of a century after the signing of the GFAs, the paramilitaries remain a threat to peace and retain the capacity to escalate violence in the streets.
The mounting difficulties and resentments over Brexit and the imposition of a border with the Irish Sea have already seen outbreaks of violence and the return of guns to the streets and the Commission fears a repeat does not happen.
“The unrest in the streets in the spring and fall has led to speculation about the potential for a resurgence of paramilitary activity.
“We remain concerned about the risks posed to society by the continued existence of paramilitary structures which can be exploited for the purpose of violence or the threat of violence.
“We said it in our last report and we say it again now: the paramilitary remains a clear and present danger.”
In recent months, UVF leadership has grappled with the prospect of fulfilling its commitment to get away from crime.
Continued involvement in organized crime has hampered these efforts. Chief of Staff John ‘Bunter’ Graham is known to favor a move towards disbandment.
But the Commission concludes that paramilitary groups remain mired in a wide range of criminal activities, ranging from extortion, drug trafficking, threats, trade in counterfeit goods, money laundering, money lending. illegal, sexual exploitation and other illegal activities.
“There are dormant members who retain some form of affiliation with a group – maybe voluntarily, or maybe because there is no way out of the group – who can pay a membership fee, and although they are not currently active in organizations, they might be invited to play a role in the future.
“We consider that there is another category of those who remain involved in paramilitarism for political and identity reasons dating back to the Troubles.”
The report indicates that there is an element that is committed to keeping organizations away from crime.
But it was against a backdrop of growing loyalist violence that made them responsible for nearly 80% of the punitive attacks.
Loyalist organizations were also responsible for a majority of bomb and gun attacks during the year – an indication of the PSNI’s effectiveness against dissident organizations.
In a joint statement, the commissioners said that although they were encouraged by efforts to reform paramilitary groups, not enough is being done.
“While police and justice measures are essential to put an end to the paramilitary, they are not sufficient in themselves and must be part of a broader and more holistic approach that includes the resolution of deep socio-economic problems. and systemic communities faced, and in particular those communities where paramilitary control is strongest. This two-track approach is crucial for a comprehensive fight against the paramilitary.
They propose the establishment of a “dedicated formal engagement process with a final objective of dissolution. “
They said an engagement process similar to the one that led to the Good Friday Accord is needed to keep paramilitaries away from crime.
“We are fully aware of the damage caused by paramilitary activities. Our report highlights the good practices of the Executive Program to Combat Paramilitary Activities, Crime and Organized Crime and the importance of the whole-of-government approach, but we also note that further action on specific measures is required.
“In summary, our general view continues to be that the paramilitary remains a clear and present danger.
“New structures have been put in place to fight the paramilitary, and new approaches are underway, but there is still a lot to be done. “
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