Loyalist paramilitaries threaten to pull out of peace talks
30/04/2004 - 10:09:27

Loyalist paramilitaries today threatened to quit peaceline talks in Northern Ireland over a ceasefire body’s demands for all organisations to cut links with terrorists.

The Ulster Volunteer Force, Red Hand Commando and Ulster Defence Association all said they will pull out of negotiations at Belfast’s sectarian flashpoints unless the Independent Monitoring Commission admits to flaws in its scathing new report.

With police chiefs preparing to mount a major security operation in a bid to stop trouble flaring on the streets this summer, the organisations warned order could not be guaranteed without their backing.

“This has created the most serious situation that has existed here since the peace process began,” a source close to the paramilitaries said.

“The IMC is saying we are not part of society, ignoring the good work we have done.

“Police meet us on a regular basis to help them control the interfaces, but we will just turn our mobiles off.”

Their fury was provoked by the commission’s damning dossier of terrorist shootings, beatings and bombings which it said were being carried out by both loyalists and republican paramilitaries.

The Government has agreed to an IMC call for the Progressive Unionists and Sinn Féin political representatives of the UVF and the IRA respectively to be financially punished.

But it was another recommendation which left loyalists incensed and claiming they had been shunned.

The report declared: “No organisation, statutory, commercial or voluntary, should tolerate links with paramilitary groups or give legitimacy to them.

“In particular, societies and other similar organisations should make every effort to satisfy themselves that none of their members are linked to paramilitary groups.”

Church leaders and community representatives who depend on loyalists’ influence to prevent tensions flaring could find it impossible to cope under this directive, it was claimed.

Paramilitary representatives who sit alongside politicians from both the Democratic Unionists and Ulster Unionists on a forum dealing with hotly contests parades in north and west Belfast have already quit in protest.

“These are people who lauded the IMC report but yet they were in the same room as people they were being told to ignore,” one source said.

“When we walked out it created a dangerous situation because if you remove that community from these meetings the people that are left cannot cope with keeping the peace.

“Some of what could happen doesn’t bear thinking about. The police either won’t or can’t deal with it on their own, contrary to what (Chief Constable) Hugh Orde might say.

“Unless the IMC step forward and recognise they made a big mistake how can we co-operate?”

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