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Murals come down as 'rear guard' stays to protect guns

(Barry McCaffrey, Irish News)

LVF murals are to be removed from loyalist estates across the north in coming days, The Irish News has learned.

The move is seen as bringing an end to all visible signs of the paramilitary group which announced it was standing down on Sunday.

An LVF mural in the Ballysillan area of north Belfast is understood to have already been removed.

Loyalist sources say the LVF will continue an internal debate over future decommissioning.

While the LVF's arsenal is thought to be limited, it is known to have imported a consignment of assault rifles from eastern Europe in 2002.

Loyalist sources claimed that the majority of the LVF's weapons were now under 'central control'.

One senior loyalist said the LVF would adopt a 'wait and see' approach over future UVF actions before it agreed to complete decommissioning.

It is understood the UVF and LVF have both given assurances that neither side will seek reprisals on named individuals.

"The LVF says it is going away and that individuals will not be allowed to use its name as cover," the source said.

"It will have to be seen if individuals can accept that, but there will be no more LVF. The only LVF people remaining are the rear guard protecting the guns."

It is understood the LVF disbandment will allow both the UVF and UDA to complete internal discussions aimed at standing down.

"There are separate talks going on within the UVF and UDA. I don't see anything happening in the immediate future but there are efforts to move things forward.

"They will want to see the response from the wider Protestant community and the government before they take any final decisions," the source said.

The DUP's Nigel Dodds praised those who had helped to bring the feud to an end.

Ulster Unionist leader Reg Empey described the LVF move as a 'positive' development.

Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly welcomed the LVF move but said that nationalists remained to be convinced.

The SDLP's Dolores Kelly said it was a "useful first step but there are many more steps to take."

Alliance leader David Ford said that the LVF/UVF feud had only served to destroy the Protestant community.

Methodist leader the Rev Desmond Bain said the community now expected other paramilitary groups to follow suit.

Ministers welcome move

The LVF's decision to stand down was welcomed as a "step forward", by Secretary of State Peter Hain yesterday (Monday). The loyalist paramilitary group took the step in response to the IRA's decision to decommission its weapons and the ending of the loyalist feud.

"I welcome any move which brings such murderous violence to an end," Mr Hain said.

He also called for a complete and permanent end to all paramilitary activity. Irish minister for foreign affairs, Dermot Ahern, said it was an important step towards bringing about complete paramilitary decommissioning.

November 2, 2005

This article appeared first in the November 1, 2005 edition of the Irish News.

This article appears thanks to the Irish News. Subscribe to the Irish News