Sunday Life

UDA truce 'teetering on brink'

By Alan Murray

18 January 2004
FIVE of the UDA's six 'brigadiers' are in favour of ending the terror group's 11-month ceasefire.

Only south Belfast leader, Jackie McDonald, supports a policy of maintaining the ceasefire, which was declared last February.

The UDA has not denied it was behind two days of bomb hoax disruption around Belfast, on Thursday and Friday.

And sources in the group predict more "activity" can be expected, over the coming weeks.

McDonald said he was "fighting a losing battle" to maintain the ceasefire, which was declared after politicians persuaded UDA chiefs to call a halt to internal feuding and sectarian attacks.

Said McDonald: "I don't want to see the ceasefire ended, but there are men in the organisation who are extremely angry about what has happened to our members in prison, and there is also the feeling that the NIO won't recognise what we have achieved, over the last 12 months."

A member of the Ulster Political Research Group, which was instrumental in persuading the UDA to declare its ceasefire, echoed the frustration over the NIO's attitude.

Tommy Kirkham said: "Had it been the IRA, we wouldn't have been out of Stormont or Hillsborough Castle, seeing the Secretary of State.

"In the 11 months since the ceasefire, we haven't even met Paul Murphy.

"We have made numerous requests to meet him, but haven't secured a meeting, so people are drawing their own conclusions."

A spokesman for the NIO confirmed Mr Murphy had not facilitated a meeting, but added there had been regular contact with the UPRG, including meetings with ministers.

"A meeting with the Secretary of State has not been ruled out," the spokesman added.

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