David McNarry has defended his role in helping broker a loyalist paramilitary ‘demobilisation’ process.
The Ukip MLA’s involvement in the Loyalist Community Council has led to criticism from some victims, but Mr McNarry said a ‘no criminality’ pledge on behalf of the UVF, UDA and Red Hand Commando could lead to a better future for everyone.
Hopefully there will be no more people injured or sacrificed in my country because of any paramilitary organisationUkip MLA David McNarry
On Tuesday Jonathan Powell – a former senior aide to then prime minister Tony Blair – was in Belfast to lend his support to the initiative.
Mr McNarry worked with the loyalist groupings for 18 months to create a declaration to which they could lend their support.
“If it doesn’t work, I will be the first to challenge the loyalists as to where it went wrong. They are my people and I believe that they are up for it.
“I’m dealing with them because I’ve been there before. There had to be a good deal of frankness and honesty. It was a challenge to them as much as it was to me,” he said.
Raymond McCord, whose son Raymond jnr was murdered by the UVF in 1997, was one of those angered by the loyalist initiative - accusing the paramilitaries of seeking government money in return for their pledge.
However, Mr McNarry said there is “no money on the table” and added: “I have every sympathy for Mr McCord and his family, and all of the other families. Hopefully there will be no more people injured or sacrificed in my country because of any paramilitary organisation.
“I can’t undo what’s happened in the past, but I’m going to have a good try at making sure my grandchildren, and everyone else’s grandchildren, have a good future.”
Mr McNarry said he accepted the paramilitaries still had “challenges regarding criminality,” but added: “As far as I am concerned, they are not loyalist if they are doing that, and they can’t be loyalists.”
Commenting on some of the difficulties along the way, the Strangford MLA said: “Nothing beats a try. These people have put themselves in the public limelight yesterday (Tuesday). It’s up to them now to work out what their future is. There is no money on the table – judge it when we see where it goes.
“In my journey I spoke to the Northern Ireland Office and my last meeting with them was only a few weeks ago. Their attitude was that ‘this isn’t enough from loyalists.’”
Mr McNarry said he challenged the NIO delegation, accusing them of “doing nothing” for loyalists while going to great lengths to “get militant republicanism into the fold”.
He went on to say: “I bowed out yesterday from the project as I always said I would. I said if you are going to take this forward then it must be free from party politics.”