The Independent International Commission on Decommissioning (IICD) has confirmed that the Ulster Defence Association has decommissioned all of its guns and explosives.
The decommissioning was witnessed by the IICD chairman Gen. John de Chastelain, former Church of Ireland Archbishop Sir George Quigley and Lord Robin Eames.
The IICD said: "We have now conducted a major act of decommissioning in which arms, ammunition, explosives and explosive devices belonging to the UDA have been destroyed within the terms of our mandate."
An announcement was made yesterday on behalf of the UDA by the Ulster Political Research Group (UPRG). The UPRG is an advisory body for the UDA and succeeded the Ulster Democratic Party in 2002.
UPRG spokesman Frankie Gallagher said that the "historic decision" to disband had been agreed by all of the UDA brigades in Northern Ireland.
Gallagher said that, “Consequently, the issue of loyalist weaponry no longer presents an obstacle to the development of our communities.”
Gallagher praised the work and resilience of the Loyalist community and said it was now time “to create an era where all our communities can benefit from stability, investment and growth within its region of the United Kingdom and enjoy the benefits of freedom and diversity”.
Gallagher denied that the UDA were paid by the state to decommission their weapons.
The UDA's decommissioning was warmly welcomed by the North's religious leaders, political parties and the British and Irish governments.
Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen welcomed the news and said: “Taken together with the completion of decommissioning by the IRA and the UVF, it is a clear signal that Northern Ireland has moved on and that the democratic institutions established by the Good Friday agreement are the means through which the entire community in Northern Ireland, and the people of these islands, can and will build lasting peace and prosperity.”
Lord Robin Eames and Sir George Quigley said, "Those within loyalism who have eschewed violence and criminality and who are genuinely committed to helping transform their communities need to be supported, and those communities fully integrated into the political process."