A declaration has been made on behalf of the UDA, stating that the organisation still exists and suggesting that it has no intention of disappearing.
The claim came on the day that the Province’s political leadership was meeting at Stormont to discuss the ongoing existence of paramilitary organisations in Northern Ireland.
A magazine titled ‘The Loyalist’ issued its latest edition yesterday (Monday), which discusses the current political disarray at Stormont and the republican-friendly stance of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, whilst praising the past activities of the UDA.
It ends with the following: “We will wait and see which way it pans out but rest assured the UDA are still in existence and won’t be leaving any stage whilst republicans of any faction still exist.
“The organisation was set up with the protection of their community at its heart and this we will maintain.”
The magazine represents the views of the South Belfast UPRG/UDA, and the editorial appears to conflict with other statements made under UDA auspices in recent years.
The Loyalist magazine – costing £1.50 – has been running in various forms since the 1980s, and claims a circulation “in the high thousands”.
While it speaks for the South Belfast UPRG/UDA (the district where leadership figure Jackie McDonald is based), it is understood it does not necessarily represent the viewpoints of other branches.
The South Belfast UPRG refused to offer any further comment, saying the editorial is “self explanatory”.
As part of the ongoing efforts to resolve the current political crisis at Stormont – sparked in large measure by the PSNI claim that PIRA structures from the 1990s still exist (something denied by Sinn Fein) – multi-party talks were taking place yesterday.
These talks culminated in a statement from the Secretary of State.
It said: “While significant differences still clearly exist between the parties on what the right answer is, there is an acceptance that we need a broad approach which engages right across society if we are to see an end to paramilitary activity and an end to the control these organisations seek to exert over parts of the community.”
On November 11, 2007, the UDA had issued a statement acknowledging “that the military war is over”.
On January 6, 2010, it said “all weaponry” had been decommissioned, adding: “The UDA was formed to defend our communities; we state quite clearly and categorically that this responsibility now rests with the Government and its institutions where legitimacy resides.”
A branch of the UDA – the South East Antrim Brigade – made the news earlier in the year for putting up a fresh recruitment mural in Carrickfergus.
That branch is widely seen as a rogue entity, which has distanced itself from the mainstream of the organisation.
It has recently displayed paraphernalia in Greenisland and has been blamed for street disturbances in Larne and Carrickfergus in recent years.
Asked about yesterday’s UDA statement, the PSNI said that since the Secretary of State has commissioned an assessment from UK security agencies of all paramilitary organisations, “it would be inappropriate to comment further” while this is continuing.
Following his meeting with the Chief Constable yesterday, TUV leader Jim Allister said that the officer “took refuge” in this ongoing assessment when discussing the IRA.
After the discussions, he said: “We conclude there is an identifiable leadership of the Provisionals and that the PSNI know the people involved.”
He added that it is “imperative that the assessment delivered to the Secretary of State is not tempered to meet the convenience of its talks audience, and that it is fully published so that we can all judge its veracity.”