Loyalist Disarming Date Extended

Nationalist politicians have accused the British government of being "soft" on Loyalist paramilitaries after it was announced that the Ulster Defense Association (UDA) and the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) are to be given an additional 12 months to decommission their weapons.

The SDLP and Sinn Fein criticized an announcement by Secretary of State Shaun Woodward that he will give loyalist paramilitaries "one last chance" by extending the decommissioning deadline by a further 12 months.

The deadline for the decommissioning of paramilitary weapons is due to run out in February 2009.

However, Woodward said that he will now ask Parliament to extend that deadline by a further 12 months to allow for Loyalist decommissioning to begin.

It is 14 years since the UVF and UDA announced their ceasefires in October 1994.

However, despite the IRA having decommissioned its weapons and disbanding in September 2005, both Loyalist terror groups have failed to destroy any of their weapons.

Revealing that he would now ask Parliament to extend the decommissioning deadline for a further year passed the original February 2009 date, Woodward said, "It is time that those holding illegal weapons moved on as well. They have tested the patience of the community for long enough.

"This is their final opportunity to join the rest of society in building a shared future for Northern Ireland, or else face the consequences."

On the same day of Woodward's announcement, Loyalists were blamed for abandoning four pipe bombs at a cycle park in Belfast.

The SDLP's Alban Maginness accused Woodward of pandering to Loyalist paramilitaries.

"While I welcome the fact that the secretary of state has put a definitive end date on the legal means for paramilitary groups to disarm and disband, it is disappointing he has taken a Johnny Logan 'What's Another Year?' approach to the issue now," Maginness said.


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