UNA FAZIONE DELL’UDA NEGA DI AVER CONSEGNATO LE ARMI
Tommy Kirkham a capo di “Beyond Conflict” (consulenti politici dei gruppi paramilitari) ha dichiarato a NewsLetter che la relazione secondo la quale armi, esplosivi e munizioni della South-East Antrim Brigade dell’UDA sono stati consegnati per la distruzione di fronte agli osservatori dell’Independent International Commission on Decommissioning (IICD), è “falsa”.
“Sono tutte sciocchezze”, ha affermato Kirkham.
Nel 2007, si vociferò che l’organizzazione paramilitare si era impegnata in un atto simbolico di smantellamento consegnando un piccolo numero di armi presso la base armata di Ballykinler, ma oggi il gruppo di consulenti politici nega che qualsiasi atto di smantellamento abbia mai avuto luogo.
Da quanto è dato a sapere, il Generale de Chastelain si è recato un paio di volte in Ulster nel corso del mese corrente per vigilare sul procedere dello smantellamento degli arsenali, ma un portavoce dell’IICD non ha potuto confermare che la South-East Antrim Brigade abbia consegnato le armi.
Owen Paterson ha ricordato che “La normativa vigente in materia di disattivazione ha come termine ultimo il mese di febbraio (il termine ‘consigliato’ è il mese di agosto 2009) e a tutti dovrebbero essere assolutamente chiaro che, dopo tale data, chiunque errà catturato in possesso di armi illegali dovrà far fronte a tutta la forza della legge”.
Loyalist faction deny weapons handover (NewsLetter)
Reports that a breakaway faction of the UDA decommissioned weapons earlier this week have been dismissed by a senior loyalist linked to the grouping.
The renegade south-east Antrim brigade of the UDA, believed to have more than 2,000 members, broke away from the mainstream UDA in 2005 after a series of internal disputes.
Political advisors for the paramilitary grouping, Beyond Conflict, which is headed by Newtownabbey councillor Tommy Kirkham, have been recognised by the British Government as a separate entity.
He told the News Letter that reports that weapons, explosives and ammunition were handed over for destruction in front of observers from the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning (IICD) were “untrue”.
“This is all nonsense,” said Mr Kirkham.
“There have been ongoing talks with the IICD for a number of years. But there is no foundation to the story.”
In 2007, the grouping is understood to have been engaged in a token act of decommissioning in which a small number of weapons were taken to Ballykinler Army base for destruction.
At the time, the group’s political advisors also denied that any act of decommissioning had taken place.
The Government has set a deadline of August for the loyalist handover to begin, after which immunity from prosecution will be withdrawn.
A loyalist source last night told the News Letter that he understood that the IICD’s head, General John de Chastelain, had come to the Province in recent days.
“I was told he was here and that he was extremely busy. And let’s be honest, what else would he be doing,” the source said.
“The south-east Antrim brigade have a lot of weapons, they got a lot of material from other brigades over the years, for safekeeping really.
“But if they don’t start to decommission before the end of July then they are past the deadline.”
General de Chastelain is understood to have visited Ulster twice this month to oversee decommissioning.
Last night a spokesman from the IICD said he could confirm General de Chastelain is now in the Province.
When asked if the south-east Antrim brigade had decommissioned weapons, he replied: “I cannot confirm it.”
General de Chastelain is to present a full report to Secretary of State Shaun Woodward next month.
In June, the UVF and the smaller Red Hand Commando announced they had now completed the decommissioning process.
The larger faction of the mainstream UDA also announced they had started the process with a “significant act”.
Conservative shadow secretary of state Owen Paterson met with General de Chastelain and other senior members of the IICD on Thursday.
Speaking after the meeting, Mr Paterson said: “I am very grateful for all their hard work and congratulated them on the recent loyalist decommissioning.
“This significant move justified our insistence on an August deadline.
“However, there are other loyalist groups who have yet to decommission and I have made it clear that time is running out for them.
“The existing legislation on decommissioning ends in February and everyone should be absolutely clear that after this date, we believe that anyone caught with illegal weapons should face the full force of the law.”