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New group is latest in line of attempted loyalist unity projects

 Loyalists listen to Tony Blair's former chief of staff Jonathan Powell at the launch of the new Loyalist Communities Council. Picture by Mal McCann

THE Loyalist Community Council made up of representatives of almost all factions of the three main paramilitary organisations - the UDA, UVF and Red Hand Commando - is just the latest attempt to unite those groups and push them towards disbanding.

Part of a process started by UKIP's David McNarry 18 months ago, the LCC is said to have been set up with the aspirational aim of eventual dismantling of loyalist paramilitary structures.

The group announced its aims yesterday exactly 13 years after the Combined Loyalist Military Command (CLMC) umbrella group made ceasefire statements on behalf of the same three paramilitary groups.

Subsequent loyalist feuds and infighting made the unity project unsustainable and the CLMC ceased to exist in any real form.

There have been subsequent attempts at creating unity such as the Loyalist Commission set up in 2001, made up of representatives of the main loyalist groups as well as church and civil leaders who agreed to oversee the process. However, it also failed to make any real impact.

The UDA linked UPRG launched the Conflict Transformation Initiative in 2007 following negotiations with the NIO as part of the wider debate as to how to wind the paramilitary group down. The NIO agreed to grant £1.2 million over three years to fund the CTI. UDA-related violence in the summer of 2007 led to then minister Margaret Ritchie withdrawing CTI funds if the organisation failed to decommission.

In 2006 the breakaway South East Antrim UDA spelt out their plans for the future in a document called Beyond Conflict, the brainchild of veteran loyalist Tommy Kirkham. South east Antrim are the only faction not to have taken part in the McNarry project but sources say are working unilaterally on their own plans for the future.

The UVF linked PUP currently are engaged in the ACT program which has a number of former prisoners as members.

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