Loyalist paramilitaries state commitment to ‘the rule of law’

Three of Northern Ireland’s leading loyalist paramilitary groups have issued a joint statement backing “the rule of law”.

A statement was read out this morning on behalf of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), Ulster Defence Association (UDA) and Red Hand Commando (RHC) to mark nearly 20 years since the Good Friday Agreement was signed.

All three organisations are proscribed under the Terrorism Act 2000, though the RHC applied for deproscription last September.

They are believed to be jointly responsible for a thousand deaths over the course of The Troubles, and the PSNI believe loyalist paramilitaries are heavily involved in a wide range of crime.

Less than a week ago, Amnesty International and the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) condemned an alleged death threat against a Belfast-based journalist by a section of the UDA.

Today’s statement, the first joint statement from loyalist paramilitaries since their ceasefire in 1994, was read out alongside three former Protestant church leaders at Belfast’s Linenhall Library.

The statement reads: “We fully support the rule of law in all areas of life and emphatically condemn all forms of criminal activity. Individuals who use criminality to serve their own interests at the expense of loyalist communities are an affront to the true principles of loyalism.

“We reject and repudiate as unacceptable and contrary to loyalist principles any criminal action claimed to have been undertaken in our name or attributed to any individual claiming membership of one of our organisations. We further declare that any engagement in criminal acts by any individuals within our organisations will be regarded as placing those persons outside the memberships. This has been collectively agreed. We cannot allow criminals to hinder transformation and the ground on which such people stand is now shrinking.”