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UDA: Give us cash and we will disarm.

Byline: By ALAN ERWIN

A SENIOR loyalist yesterday insisted taxpayers will have to fork out more cash if the UDA are to disarm.

Speaking at a meeting of the UPRG, Chief Constable Hugh Orde and business leaders, Jackie McDonald also said talks with republicans are inevitable.

The South Belfast "Brigadier" added: "The British and Irish Governments basically bought the weapons off the IRA.

"Until loyalism is afforded the same respect and dialogue about their future, then the loyalist people still feel threatened and still feel left out."

McDonald, one of the most powerful men in the UDA, shook hands with Sir Hugh at the Stormont Hotel conference which was examining how to shift loyalist areas away from crime and violence.

Even though the IRA has given up its guns and called off its armed campaign, McDonald said the people he represents still feel unsafe.

He added: "If there's political stability, and there still isn't, and the loyalist people don't feel threatened, it's an inevitability in a future normal society that there's no need for weapons.

"It decommissioning is a distinct possibility but the way things stand it's still not on the radar."

More than 100 delegates at the event, organised by the West Belfast-based Farset organisation, heard how Government funding has been used.

Plans for a pounds 1.2million grant, awarded to assist regeneration in Protestant areas, were also outlined.

Representatives from UPRG, which advises the UDA, told the conference how the funding was making a difference in moving communities away from crime.

McDonald claimed it was the most significant development undertaken by loyalists in years.

And he added: "The UPRG and the UDA recognise the importance of taking our message outside the loyalist community.

"And if it's on the horizon with devolved government, then it's only a matter of time before we speak to republicans."

Sir Hugh backed the initiative as a worthwhile attempt to distance loyalists from violence.

He said: "I will talk to anyone interested in policing and this is clear evidence of a group of people trying to move on."

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SHAKE 2 UDA man Jackie McDonald with Sir Hugh Orde in Belfast yesterday
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Apr 5, 2007
Words:359
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