“the pace of movement has been too slow.”

Given some recent High Court decisions and the associated threats noted from the ‘good’ mainstream UDA, what the 13th IMC report has to say on that mainstream UDA is worth highlighting.From the IMC report[pdf file]

Ulster Defence Association (UDA)

2.24 In our previous report we described the picture of UDA activity as mixed. We believed that people connected with the UDA were likely to have been responsible for one murder, though we had no indication that it was sanctioned. Members were responsible for sectarian attacks, including serious ones, had continued to undertake shootings and assaults, and had monitored the activities of dissident republicans. Members were also involved in a wide variety of serious crime including drugs dealing, the sale of counterfeit goods, robbery and extortion. The UDA also continued its efforts to sustain itself as an organisation: some units recruited members; some sought to obtain weapons.

2.25 There were some encouraging signs. We said we thought that some leading members genuinely wanted to steer the organisation away from crime and that they had had mixed success. The expulsion of some North Belfast members and the subsequent avoidance of bloodshed were important and senior figures made efforts to ensure that members did not engage in violence during the parades season. In some areas there had been a reduction in drug dealing though other crimes might have taken their place.

2.26 The picture in the three months under review showed some improvement. However UDA members committed acts of violence, attacking PSNI officers in Newtownabbey in October 2006 and foreign nationals in Antrim, and attempting to force other foreign nationals from their homes. One attack on a foreign national involved the petrol bombing of his home. A senior member sanctioned sectarian attacks in Larne and there were others in Castlederg. Of the loyalist shootings and assaults which we are able to attribute to a particular paramilitary organisation, UDA members were responsible for the majority; we think that many reflect either internal friction or are directed against those believed to be behaving anti-socially and we note that senior UDA figures continue to brief members not to undertake such attacks. Members continue to be heavily involved in other forms of crime, including drug dealing, although some leading figures are continuing their efforts to reduce the level of criminality in the organisation. The position on maintaining the capability of the organisation is essentially as before, with some local units recruiting (despite senior figures talking of plans to cease doing so) or aspiring to acquire weapons (though there is no organisational strategy for this). We think that the UDA has decided against early decommissioning.

2.27 There are some encouraging indications. We note that some senior figures continue to steer the organisation towards involvement in community development, democratic politics and the avoidance of sectarian conflict. For example, members have been threatened with expulsion if they do not desist from crime. We also note that there is now a code of conduct covering members’ behaviour. The impact of efforts such as these is greater in some places than others and in respect of some activities than of others. Overall we believe the UDA has moved a little way in a more positive direction, but the pace of movement has been too slow.

And on the UPRG’s role

The UPRG and the UDA

4.10 In our previous report we noted that there was a genuine desire on the part of some leading members of the UDA to steer the organisation away from crime and that in the six months then under review there had, for the first time, been some impact, albeit limited. We drew attention to how senior figures had successfully restrained members from violence following the expulsion of members of the North Belfast Brigade. There had been some reduction in drug dealing in certain areas, though other crimes might have taken its place, and senior members made efforts to ensure that other members did not engage in violence during the parades season.

4.11 We also drew attention to the work of the UPRG in support of community development and to its acknowledgement that paramilitary activity was harming the communities from which the UDA traditionally drew support. We recorded the UPRG’s view that inter-communal violence must stop. We recognised that changes of this kind were bound to be difficult and we commended those giving the lead.

4.12 We have examined whether during the three months presently under review these developments have had further impact on the ground and whether there have been other ones of the same kind. We have found similar continuing leadership, of which we give some examples in paragraphs 2.26 and 2.27 above; this is despite occasions on which some senior members have been involved in or supported criminality. There have been some expulsions from the UDA for unacceptable conduct. We welcome moves to stop the use of military-style dress and are persuaded that amongst the leadership there are some who recognise that criminality (particularly drug use and dealing) has to be reduced and that there can be no turning back to more violent times. The UPRG continues its initiatives in support of community development. However, the pace of all these various
efforts is steady rather than urgent. There are said to be loyalist concerns about the threat from dissident republicans and it has been put to us that until there is more assurance of political stability this pace is not likely to change. However, despite the personal commitment on the part of people directly involved and the progress that has been made, there is still a very long way to go, as paragraphs 2.26 and 2.27 above indicate. If the work on conflict transformation is to remain credible the pace of change needs to quicken or any momentum will be lost.

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