UDA ready for peace?

ON Remembrance Sunday, more than 800 loyalists heard the UDA statement which was read out in Rathcoole, a huge loyalist housing estate on the outskirts of Belfast. There were no cameras, but the Press Association was there to cover it. The statement claimed that the IRA had been defeated, but that:

The Ulster Defence Association/Ulster Freedom Fighters remain intact. No better time now, undefeated as we are, to look to the future but equally so, we must remember the lessons of the past. At this moment in time UDA remains the only group to meet the decommissioning body. We remain the only group engaging with the International Monitoring Commission. “And yet despite our protests of engagement, the government refuse to discuss progress in a meaningful and lasting way.

Since June this year we have requested three meetings with the Northern Ireland Secretary of State. Since January 2004 we have requested meetings with Prime Minister Tony Blair. How can the attention and pressure be redirected for loyalism to make the next move? We have always been willing to discuss the future. We wish to make our position absolutely clear that over a two month period we have consulted our entire membership. On behalf of the Inner Council the message must go out today that at this time the UDA has a clear understanding on the future. We are open minded and waiting on contact.

After all, the Republican Movement have signed up to the principle of consent, they have agreed to the removal of Articles Two and Three from the (Irish) Republic`s constitution. Martin McGuinness and Barbara Brown (Sinn Fein`s Bairbre de Brun) sat in Stormont under the Union Flag as ministers of the Assembly and more recently, the Provisional IRA have according to General John de Chastelain surrendered all their weapons.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty