In October 2001 the then-secretary of state John Reid finally declared the UDA, UFF and LVF's ceasefires over after a wave of attacks on Catholics, including a number of sectarian murders.
Just hours before the LVF killing of Sunday World journalist Martin O'Hagan, Dr Reid gave the UDA one last chance to halt its violent campaign which had intensified over the last 18 months.
The ultimatum came after another night of serious rioting by loyalists in north Belfast, which left one civilian and 13 police officers injured.
Dr Reid dramatically changed his mind at the 11th hour, opting not to declare the organisation's ceasefire over following a security briefing.
He explained that the UDA had accepted the damage their violence was doing and had decided to halt it.
"While I am deeply sceptical of any words emanating from this organisation even at this 11th hour I am prepared to put the UDA to the test. I will judge the UDA by its actions tonight, tomorrow night and every night."
The ultimatum fell on deaf ears the violence continued and 15 days later Dr Reid declared the UDA, UFF and LVF ceasefires over.
"The attacks by these organisations are incompatible with any claims to be on ceasefire. Society cannot tolerate these actions," he said.
Despite its violent history, the UDA was a legal organisation until 1992, when it was proscribed.
The largest paramilitary organisation, it first emerged in 1971 when loyalist vigilantes united under the umbrella name of 'defence associations'.
Its military wing was launched in 1973 when the Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF) was formed.
UFF gangs carried out some of the most brutal killings of the Troubles and with the UDA is believed to have have been responsible for more than 400 murders.
Allegations persist that British military intelligence and Special Branch colluded with the UDA in the murder of Catholics, including solicitor Pat Finucane in 1989.
At its height, the UDA had around 40,000 members and staged massive shows of strength on the streets of Belfast in the early seventies.
The UDA has also been politically active with the New Ulster Political Research Group and the Ulster Loyalist Democratic Party (ULDP), which produced the Common Sense devolution document.
The Ulster Democratic Party (UDP) replaced the ULDP in 1989 when Gary McMichael took over the reigns from his father, John McMichael, who was murdered in 1987.
But soon after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 cracks emerged within the UDA.
Its ceasefire, called with other loyalist paramilitary organisations in 1994, was questioned on numerous occasions.
Its struggle for a political identity saw the demise of the UDP and the establishment of the Ulster Political Research Group.
In early 2001, a quarter of the ruling party officers quit over the peace accord, with Gary McMichael confirming that discontent had been rumbling within the ranks for some time.
The defections came from branches in areas hit by an upsurge in sectarian attacks Larne, Coleraine, Ballymoney, Newtownabbey and Carrickfergus.
The UDA withdrew its support for the Good Friday agreement, but insisted its ceasefire was intact.
But the organisation was behind numerous murders, and hundreds of bomb attacks against the Catholic community over the last few years.
Catholic builder Gary Moore was gunned down by the UDA in December 2000 at work in Monkstown outside north Belfast, in revenge for the killing of Protestant taxi driver Trevor Kell.
Catholic father-of-two John McCormack (25) was gunned down in front of his young children at his Coleraine home in June 2001.
A week later Protestant teenager Gavin Brett (18) was gunned down as he stood with a Catholic friend outside a GAA club near his Glengormley home.
It is believed the UDA mistook him for a Catholic. The murder was carried out by the south-east Antrim 'brigade'.
The unit was headed by John Gregg, who was killed earlier this month by rivals in the notorious Shankill C company as he returned from a football match in Scotland.
His 'brigade' was also behind the murder in January last year of Catholic postman Daniel McColgan as he arrived for work at a sorting office in the loyalist Rathcoole estate.
The brutal killing resulted in anti-sectarian rallies the largest seen since the seventies.
But the UDA failed to heed the cross-community appeal.
Catholic teenager Gerard Lawlor was shot dead last July after leaving a pub on the Antrim Road in north Belfast.
The UDA has been linked to sectarian violence in north Belfast, including disturbances at the Holy Cross primary school during a protest which sparked worldwide revulsion.
It was also involved in serious sectarian violence in the Short Strand area of east Belfast last year.
At the height of the trouble the Loyalist Commission, which includes representatives of the UDA, UVF and Red Hand Commando, released a 'no first strike' statement.
Nationalists scorned the pledge as attacks on Catholic homes continued.
Over the last few months tensions at the Short Strand interface have subsided and loyalist paramilitary murals have been removed.
But the security forces linked the UDA to an incident in the area just before Christmas when a Catholic woman and a number of children were threatened at gunpoint as they left a leisure centre on the loyalist side of the interface.
Since September the UDA's attentions have been firmly focused on its feud with former ally Johnny Adair, who was thrown out of the organisation over his alleged close links with the LVF.
The UDA and LVF have since settled their differences following a feud which has claimed several lives, and Adair's reign in the lower Shankill area of west Belfast is now over.
Indeed the bitter divisions within loyalism appear to be on the mend and in a show of unity representatives of the LVF and UVF attended the funeral of UDA boss John Gregg.
Last Monday the UDA in west Belfast dumped 14 pipe bombs for the security forces to defuse in a move aimed at easing fears over the recent feud.
The Ulster Political Research Group strenuously denied that it was a publicity stunt and insisted that the UDA was moving away from violence.
The security minister confirmed it was not an act of decommissioning and nationalists were cautious, pointing to a recent upsurge in intimidation against the Catholic community following a bid to end the loyalist feud.
Latest police statistics revealed that loyalist pipe bombers have struck, on average, every two days over the past three years.