BBC NEWS | Northern Ireland | UDA 'still involved in crime'

**Another DUH ! report for comic relief. Orde--wat a guy! Gotta love his quote.

UDA 'still involved in crime'

This weekend marks the first anniversary of a ceasefire (huh?) declared by the loyalist paramilitary Ulster Defence Association.

But in an exclusive interview with BBC Northern Ireland security editor Brian Rowan, Chief Constable Hugh Orde links the UDA to murder, beatings, drugs and other crimes during the past 12 months.

This time a year ago (how time flies) the "new" UDA announced its latest ceasefire - delivered as a 12-month period of "military inactivity".

The UDA announced its ceasefire one year ago

All of this was about trumpeting in a new era: this was the UDA after Johnny Adair, and things were going to be different.

Fifty paramilitary-style "punishment" attacks later, the new UDA looks something like the old UDA.

There have been murders too - one of them sectarian - as well as continuing involvement in drugs and other criminal activities.

More recently, there has been talk that the organisation wants a say in Northern Ireland's political future, and that it wants an input into the review of the Good Friday Agreement.

But the UDA has been told that pipe-bombs and politics don't mix, and the chief constable says "they need to decide which way they want to go".

Speaking in an exclusive interview for BBC News Online to mark the first anniversary of the UDA ceasefire, Hugh Orde linked the paramilitary group to those 50 or so "punishment" attacks.

"We would attribute those unequivocally to the UDA," said Mr Orde.

"We're not saying it's anyone else. Now, that's a substantial amount of violence within their own community.

"Nearly all those victims were under 30. So what that organisation is currently doing is crippling the future generation of their own people by these beatings.

"If they think it's OK to commit crime, then I think it's OK to arrest them"--Hugh Orde,Chief Constable

"So it hasn't gone away. They need to decide which way they want to go."

This time a year ago, the UDA was coming out of a bloody internal feud. One of its leaders, John Gregg, had been "shot dead in an ambush and Johnny Adair had been thrown back into jail.

There were all sorts of promises as the UDA turned over a new paramilitary leaf.

But "military inactivity" has not meant no activity and the chief constable suggested the UDA was behind the sectarian murder of a young Catholic man in Lisburn last November.

James McMahon was beaten to death - Hugh Orde says for "no identifiable reason" - and the chief constable told me: "The UDA is a major line of our inquiry in that killing."

Another UDA promise was to move away from its involvement in drugs crime, but Mr Orde says that has not happened.

"They are clearly involved in drugs," he said.

"Loyalist paramilitary groups specialise in the drugs market. That has not gone away. The drugs market is still there," he said.

Loyalists have complained about what they see as a policy of "politicising the Provos and criminalising the Prods", but Mr Orde is adamant that there is no such policy.

He said it was a "false claim" and that those who make it "need to grow up".

"If they think it's OK to commit crime, then I think it's OK to arrest them," he said.

So, Mr Orde's assessment of the UDA on ceasefire is that that group has been involved in murder, in vicious beatings, in drugs and in other criminal activities.

That said, on balance, the past year has been better than previous years in terms of the group's involvement in violence, but so much more is expected of a ceasefire.

Mr Orde hopes the UDA are as serious about now wanting to go down a political road.

But the organisation lacks credibility, and the paramilitary group will have to prove to others that it can change.

It is expected to speak soon on its future intentions.

Those watching and waiting for the group's latest utterances will be hoping for another ceasefire - one that is more disciplined and more credible.

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