Nationalists ‘don’t recognise UDA ceasefire’

By Harry McGee, Political Editor

THE Government and nationalist parties yesterday gave mixed reactions to the British Government’s official recognition of the Ulster Defence Association’s ceasefire.

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern gave a guarded welcome to the announcement by Northern Secretary Paul Murphy, saying “any positive development” that would progress the peace process was to be welcomed.

However, both Sinn Féin and the SDLP expressed deep suspicion of the move and of the UDA’s intentions.

SDLP leader Mark Durkan, in a clear reference to racist attacks in the North over the past few weeks, said: “The Secretary of State may recognise the UDA ceasefire but nationalists and ethnic minorities on the ground certainly don’t. Nor will a lot of unionists either.

“People will therefore judge the UDA not on what the Secretary of State says, but on what the UDA does - and stops doing - in our communities,” he said.

Sinn Féin Assembly member Gerry Kelly said the test for the UDA would remain “a genuine end to its campaign of attack and intimidation against the ethnic and nationalist sections of our community”.

The announcement yesterday followed discussions between Mr Murphy and senior UDA leaders in Belfast this week. The organisation is expected to make a major announcement setting out its intentions.

Mr Murphy said yesterday he believed that the largest loyalist paramilitary group had accepted a move away from violence. “(I believe) they are genuinely committed to move towards a different type of politics in Northern Ireland that isn’t based on violence,” he said.

While the UDA declared a ceasefire following the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, the British Government withdrew its official recognition in October 2001 due to its continuing involvement in violence and also in drug-dealing and racketeering.

Mr Murphy yesterday outlined a number of reasons why he was prepared to recognise the UDA ceasefire, including its “generally constructive approach” to the summer marching season.

But he went on to refer to continuing “unacceptable activities” by the UDA which it must cease.

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