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16/01/2002

Red Hand Defenders to disband following UFF order

The Red Hand Defenders is set to disband as a result of a direct order from the Ulster Defence Association leadership.

In a statement on Tuesday January 15, the UDA/Ulster Freedom Fighters said it “unreservedly” condemned the death threats issued by the Red Hand Defenders, against Catholic schoolteachers and postal workers last weekend and that it was ordering the Red Hand Defenders to stand down within 14 days.

In response to this order, a statement was issued to the BBC on Wednesday morning under the Red Hand Defenders name, detailing the order to its members. It said: “From midnight tonight [Wednesday] the Red Hand Defenders will stand down as the UFF ordered.”

However, the Red Hand Defenders is widely acknowledged as being a cover name used by elements of the UDA.

Initially the Red Hand Defenders claimed responsibility for the murder of 20-year-old postman Danny McColgan last Saturday morning. However, the East Antrim UDA brigade later admitted that it was responsible for his murder.

SDLP assembly member for west Belfast Alex Attwood said he would be treating the Red Hand Defenders statement with caution. He said: “They are trying to cover their tracks and distance themselves from what is happening because everybody knows the UFF, the UDA, the Red Hand Defenders are the one and the same group of people whatever name they call themselves. Given that it is the same people, this does not change anything and people will treat their claims with caution.”

Meanwhile postmen and women have voted to return to work, starting from midnight on Wednesday. The move to return was taken at a lunchtime meeting between staff and union representatives who recommended they go back to work. (AMcE)

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