31/10/2005

LVF to stand down members

Loyalist splinter group, the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF), has confirmed it is to stand down its members.

The group said the decision was taken in response to the IRA move to decommission arms in September.

The move comes a day after protestant churchman Mervyn Gibson said the loyalist feud, between the LVF and UVF, had "permanently ended". The feud had escalated over the summer resulting in the deaths of four men.

Commenting on today's news, Ulster Unionist Party leader Sir Reg Empey said he welcomed the decision.

"As I made clear at my Party’s Conference, I will not be found wanting where my help and support is required in assisting Loyalist communities that seek to move towards normality and a better future," he said.

"The momentum created by this needs to be built on. I call on the Secretary of State to accelerate his efforts to get some sustainable community infrastructure in place in Loyalist areas.

"Building up the confidence of the people in battered loyalist communities must become a high government priority in the days ahead.”

Sinn Fein said that while today's announcement was a welcome one, nationalists would judge the LVF on their actions as well as their words.

"Given the history of the LVF nationalists and republicans will of course be cautious of anything being said or promised by them," North Belfast MLA Gerry Kelly said. "This grouping has a history of sectarian violence, murders and widespread drug dealing. So with relation to the LVF it is very much wait and see."

The LVF was formed by Portadown loyalist Billy Wright after the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) leadership stood down his unit in 1996.

Wright was later shot dead by republicans in the Maze prison in December 1997.

(MB/SP)

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