What the loyalists are up to. Discuss.Previously: IMC on PIRA – The bad news
Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF)
3.11 In our Seventh Report we recapped the detailed information which we had given in our Sixth Report a month earlier about the UVF/LVF feud and our view that the LVF’s violence against the UVF had been largely by way of response rather than as a campaign with a definite objective. We noted that since the end of August the feud had largely died down. We referred to the LVF’s heavy involvement in organised crime and described it as a deeply criminal organisation.
3.12 The feud with the UVF can be said to have come to an end during the period under review in this report and there has been no sign of its returning at the present time. Before the end of the feud the LVF targeted UVF members with a view to being able to undertake attacks and it was responsible for one attempted murder. Its level of other violent activity over the period under review was not high but the organisation remains heavily involved in organised crime, including drugs. We note the statement in October 2005 that the organisation would stand down its military units, but we have not seen any evidence of the LVF disbanding. There has therefore been no change to the earlier conclusion about its essentially criminal nature.
Ulster Defence Association (UDA)
3.29 In our Seventh Report we said that the UDA had continued to recruit and train members; had both considered and undertaken violent attacks, including sectarian ones; and remained active in organised crime, including drugs. We concluded that it remained an active threat to the rule of law.
3.30 The picture on the UDA over the three months under review is essentially the same. It has been engaged in continuing paramilitary activity. Members from East Belfast were in our view responsible for the murder on 4 October of their fellow member Jim Gray who was on bail following his arrest. Members also undertook a sectarian attack in early September. The UDA and its members have continued to undertake targeting, shootings and assaults, some unreported; the UDA was responsible for most of the loyalist incidents which it is possible to attribute with certainty to a particular organisation, although these attributions are a minority of the total. There have been other violent incidents since the period under review here. We believe that the organisation continues to aspire to acquire weapons although we have no evidence over this period that it has successfully done so. We are aware of no change in the broad pattern of UDA involvement in organised crime. Members of the organisation were engaged in drug dealing, extortion, the production and sale of counterfeit goods, money laundering and robbery. Offences of this kind are committed or planned across the whole organisation. Four senior members of the North Belfast Brigade were arrested in November for a number of these offences as well as for others involving threats to kill and the possession of firearms.
3.31 The disorders on 10 September at the parade in Whiterock were a significant event in the period under review. The UDA, together with the UVF to which we refer below, was closely involved in planning the co-ordination of violent protests and it made weapons available for the occasion. Again like the UVF, it planned to use these weapons against the security forces in the event of disorder. Senior UDA members helped orchestrate violence during the parade, and members hijacked vehicles and during the course of the rioting attacked the police and military with gunfire, blast bombs and petrol bombs. In the following few days we believe that the leadership of the UDA concluded that things had escalated unacceptably on 10 September and it decided that there should be no further UDA involvement in the continuing disorders. With the UVF and RHC, it then took steps to prevent further rioting.
3.32 We give no credit to the UDA for trying to rein back on disorders which it had done so much to foster just because it found things had reached an unacceptable level. But we do nevertheless think that there are signs that some people within some parts of the organisation or associated with it want to steer the UDA away from violence and crime and into community development. We applaud constructive community work and activities such as the removal of flags and murals. Another important step would be for loyalist paramilitaries, including the UDA, to stop targeting nationalists and members of ethnic minorities. We hope that the UPRG will give a clear and robust lead on this. We see these activities as potentially part of the difficult process of transition and hope they will progress. But this cannot disguise the continuing involvement of the UDA in violent and other crime during the period under review in this report.
Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) and Red Hand Commando (RHC)
3.33 In our Seventh Report we recapped the detailed information we had given a month earlier in our Sixth Report about the UVF/LVF feud. We noted that most of the violent incidents in the feud had been the responsibility of the UVF and concluded that the UVF leadership had decided it was the time to finish off the LVF. The UVF had also been involved in violent incidents not associated with the feud, some of them sectarian, and remained involved in organised crime, including drugs. We concluded, as we had before, that the UVF was active, violent and ruthless.
3.34 The feud with the LVF died down after the end of August and can be said to have come to an end during the period under review. The UVF and Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) leaderships were involved in de-escalatating it. Before this happened the UVF was, we believe, responsible for one attempted murder. Apart from the feud, the organisation has continued to conduct both shootings and assaults and its members have undertaken sectarian attacks across Northern Ireland over the three months. With the UDA it was prominently involved in the violence at the Whiterock parade on 10 September: both organisations planned co-ordinated protests and both made weapons available for the occasion, and both planned to use them against the security forces in the event of disorder. Senior members of the UVF were involved on the day in orchestrating violence at the parade, and during the course of the rioting members were responsible for hijacking vehicles and for attacks on the police and military involving gunfire, blast bombs and petrol bombs. After the parade, and again in common with the UDA, the UVF concluded that things had gone too far on the day and that its members should not be further involved in the rioting. With the UDA and RHC, the UVF then took steps to prevent further rioting.
3.35 UVF members were also involved in two other outbreaks of disorder, one of them in the Shankill Road following the arrest of a senior UVF commander. The organisation continues to aspire to acquire weapons though we have no indication of any recent success in doing so. We are aware of no significant change to the broad pattern of the UVF’s involvement in organised and other crime but we believe that elements within the leadership are making efforts to reduce criminality, including drug dealing, within the organisation. We welcome this, and will watch with interest to see what happens. One important step would be for loyalist paramilitaries, including the UVF and RHC, to stop targeting nationalists and ethnic minorities. We hope the PUP will give a clear and robust lead on this.
3.36 The level of UVF activity has therefore been less than it was in the six months covered by our previous report, mainly because of the ending of the feud with the LVF. Despite the welcome steps the leadership has taken on the feud and other crime we do not at this stage change our overall assessment of the organisation. It remains a continuing and serious threat to the rule of law and our previous phrase – active, violent and ruthless – still applies to it. We very much hope we will start to see this change.