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UDA set to call off ceasefire

(John McShane, The People)

The UDA is set to pull the plug on its 'ceasefire', The People has learned.

The terror group's Inner Council is set to vote on the issue within weeks, and top sources say it's likely that all 'brigades' will push to go 'back to war.' And that means that Catholics are likely to be put in the firing line as the sectarian killing machine stumbles to put together a political argument.

"There is no support for this Agreement, there is no feeling that loyalists are getting anywhere, there are no credible disbandment moves by the IRA and the government is treating our prisoners like dirt," said one member of the organisation's West Belfast Brigade.

"Nothing is written in stone but when this issue comes up for discussion at our review then I'd be very surprised if there was anyone at all who starts arguing to maintain the silence of the guns."

The chilling news is likely to come as a surprise to many who would scoff at the idea that the UDA ever was on ceasefire.

In November the group was behind a vicious beating which killed Lisburn Catholic man James McMahon. Last week the UPRG, which speaks for the UDA, said the ceasefire was 'under strain.'

That message was made even more clear by a long-serving member of the organisation who said that all of its members in Northern Ireland were angry.

The belief that Protestants are not getting their fair share of any spoils arising out of the Good Friday Agreement has become a rallying cry inside the UDA. And coupled with the belief that the internal feud is at an end, it's thought that the terror group might want to reunite itself with a killing spree.

That could herald a return to violence by republicans - and bring the peace process crashing down.

Security sources said they are aware of developments and that one theory is that UDA is 'sabre rattling' in a bid to get more attention from the government.

Last week the group stole the IRA's clothes and caused traffic chaos across Belfast with a series of hoax bomb alerts, including, oddly enough, one at the headquarters of the Orange Order in east Belfast. That action came after a night of prison violence which caused tens of thousands of pounds worth of damage.

The UDA called a one year ceasefire last February in the wake of the murder of top dog John Gregg.

It's now coming under review and the signs are not good.

January 21, 2004

This article appeared first in The People on January 18, 2004.