While the rest of us wait to see whether the charges of membership of the UDA against Ihab Shoukri are folllowed through in court, or droppped for some reason or other, and while the final preparations for today’s largesse by the Secretary of State et al were being made, an NIO spokesman confirmed to the Sunday Life that they had received visitors – “Meetings have taken place with community representatives in north Belfast, but we cannot discuss the details of these discussions.” Stephen Breen and Alan Murray not only identify one of those community representatives, north Belfast pastor Brian Madden, they also have his version of the reason for the meeting:
“Yes, I did meet officials from the Northern Ireland Office to convey to them that the north Belfast UDA had a positive message to bring to them.”
From the Sunday Life report:
The Rev Madden told Sunday Life last night: “Yes, I did meet officials from the Northern Ireland Office to convey to them that the north Belfast UDA had a positive message to bring to them.
“I told the officials that the people running the brigade wanted to scotch the image of a violent bunch of fellas out to wreck and destroy.
“I told the NIO that the north Belfast UDA wants to see positive, political developments and wants to be involved in bringing progress to the area and doesn’t want to be left out of the political loop.”
But the Elim pastor added: “That’s all it was – there certainly were no negotiations about Ihab Shoukri or Andre Shoukri during the meeting.
“I have worked with these fellas (north Belfast UDA) for months and months and I think I know what they are about.
“I took a positive message to the NIO from them. The message is that they are not ready for war, but, on the contrary, they want to be kept in the loop and not left to fester on the sidelines.
“I said that, whatever the other element of the UDA was prepared to discuss, they would be prepared to discuss and that was how it was left.
“We didn’t discuss decommissioning of weapons or some deal to release Ihab or Andre Shoukri.”
Of course you didn’t…