Decommissioning: full statements
The following is the full text of the statement issued by the leadership of the Ulster Volunteer Force and the Red Hand Commando paramilitary groups confirming they had decommissioned their weapons.
Ulster Volunteer Force and Red Hand Commando command staff
The leadership of the Ulster Volunteer Force and Red Hand Commando today confirms it has completed the process of rendering ordnance totally, and irreversibly, beyond use.
This process was initiated in autumn 2008 when the Combined Loyalist Military Command was reconvened to address the outstanding issue of Loyalist military material. As a result of those discussions, all constituent parts agreed to set in place the internal arrangements necessary to begin the disarmament process.
In March 2009, all preparations were suspended following the attacks on UK citizens at Masserene Barracks and Craigavon. Assurances were sought from the Government, and from the Irish Government, that those responsible, in whatever jurisdiction, would be vigorously pursued and the failures of 1969 would not be revisited upon our community.
Only when forthright assurances were given, and it became clear that they would be honoured, did our process resume.
Across every operational area in Northern Ireland and in all regions of Great Britain; in conjunction with the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning; in the presence of independent international witnesses and consistent with the modalities and schemes agreed upon by our interlocutor; the Ulster Volunteer Force and Red Hand Commando have now concluded that process.
We have done so to further augment the establishment of accountable democratic governance in this region of the United Kingdom; to remove the pretext that Loyalist weaponry is an obstacle to the development of our communities and to compound our legacy of integrity to the peace process. We believe the significance and substance of our actions will satisfy the above objectives.
For God and Ulster.
Captain William Johnston; Adjutant.
Full statement issued by the Ulster Defence Association confirming it has started to decommission its weapons:
Today is a milestone in the history of Loyalism, and Northern Ireland.
We came together to protect our communities and fought a long war to defend them against Republican violence.
The struggle has ended. Peace and democracy have been secured and the need for armed resistance has gone. Consequently we are putting our arsenal of weaponry permanently beyond use.
This is a courageous and unprecedented move that is part of a wider transition from conflict to peace. This process was initiated in autumn 2008 when the Combined Loyalist Military Command was reconvened to address the outstanding issue of Loyalist military material. As a result of those discussions, all constituent parts agreed to set in place the internal arrangements necessary to begin the disarmament process.
As a result we have held a series of meetings with General John de Chastelain and his team who have witnessed an act of decommissioning. This process will be completed within the previously notified timescale. By carrying out this act we are helping to build a new and better Northern Ireland where conflict is a thing of the past.
In this important moment in our history we wish to pay tribute to the courage and fortitude of our comrades and communities.
To those who have died, we salute you and forever treasure your memory. To those who have lost loved ones, we share your grief. To those who have been injured or imprisoned, we thank you for your sacrifice.
The dark days are now behind us and it is time to move on. There is no place for guns and violence in the new society we are building. It is time to work for a better future.
Many Loyalist areas suffer high levels of deprivation and poverty, and we have a commitment to the communities that we have defended all these years. We will work with our people to build stronger and better communities so that our children and our children’s children can enjoy peace and prosperity.
We are proud of our past and we rejoice in the new found peace, stability and democracy which we helped to secure. We look forward to playing our part in building a better Northern Ireland.
As John McMichael stated before his untimely death: “There is no section of this divided Ulster community which is totally innocent or indeed totally guilty, totally right or totally wrong. We all share the responsibility for creating the situation, either by deed or by acquiescence. Therefore we must share the responsibility for finding a settlement and share the responsibility of maintaining good government.”