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Ulster Volunteer Force announces it will put weapons "beyond reach"

Friday, May 4, 2007

Map of Northern Ireland as part of the British Isles.
Northern Ireland is shown in orange, the rest of the United Kingdom is peach, and Ireland is white.

The Northern Ireland loyalist paramilitary group, the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) intends to end its decade-long campaign of violence and terror and will disarm, making it the first loyalist paramilitary to do so.

Cquote1.svg All recruitment has ceased; military training has ceased; targeting has ceased and all intelligence rendered obsolete; all active service units have been de-activated; all ordinance has been put beyond reach. Cquote2.svg

—UVF disarmament statement

However, unlike the Provisional Irish Republican Army, the UVF will not fully decommission weapons. Instead the illegal organization will put weapons "beyond reach" of ordinary members in secure caches only known to UVF leadership.

The group, considered a terrorist group in both the United States and United Kingdom issued a statement, read by Gusty Spence, a founding member of the UVF, which stated that "as of 12 midnight, Thursday 3 May 2007, the Ulster Volunteer Force and Red Hand Commando will assume a non-military, civilianised, role."

It also added, "All recruitment has ceased; military training has ceased; targeting has ceased and all intelligence rendered obsolete; all active service units have been deactivated; all ordinance has been put beyond reach and the IICD instructed accordingly."

However, according to the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning (IICD), this does not meet the requirements set out in government legislature. Although it welcomed the news of disarmament, the Commission said it was "concerned by [the UVF's] intention to deal with their arms without the involvement of the IICD".

Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern suggested the UVF work with the Commission "with a view to full decommissioning". Sinn Fein welcomed the news of UVF's disarmament. "This is a welcome statement if it signals a recognition of the new political reality where there is no room for armed or violent actions," said John O'Dowd of Sinn Fein.

The British Prime Minister's office expressed cautious optimism over the UVF announcement. "We need to see how today's announcement is translated into action," said a spokesman for Prime Minister Tony Blair.

The group has been on a cease-fire since 1994 in response to the IRA ceasefire. The group was responsible for 427 deaths during the violent period in Northern Ireland known as the "the Troubles" some of which was notoriously violent, which included a group of members known as the "Shankill Butchers" who committed a series of grisly murders of Catholics in Belfast and the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, which claimed the life of 33 victims and was the deadliest terrorist incident during the Troubles to happen in the Republic of Ireland.

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