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Loyalist Paramilitary Organisations

Volume 460: debated on Wednesday 23 May 2007

7. What progress has been made on loyalist decommissioning in Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement. (137962)

The recent meeting between the Ulster Volunteer Force and the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning is a step in the right direction. It is vital that all loyalist paramilitary groups make a complete transition to peace and engage in full decommissioning.

Is the Minister aware that people want an end to all paramilitary activity—all the guns, intimidation, drug dealing, protection rackets and other threats to emerging normality—and is he also aware that while some elements within loyalism are making progress, people feel that he is only playing footsie with some hardliners who have no intention of ending their grip of fear on their local communities?

Of course my hon. Friend is right to say that we must continue to bear down on criminality and paramilitary activity. As I said in answer to an earlier question, my hope is that those involved in dissident republican groups and loyalist paramilitary organisations will see the wastefulness of the death and destruction of the last 40 years, and the positive hope that comes with democracy. Of course there will still be some hardliners, and they need to hear the message that we will not give up pursuing them and ensuring that if they do commit criminal acts, they are dealt with by the justice system.