Loyalists call on west Belfast UDA leaders to 'stand down'
A group of former loyalist prisoners have called on the leadership of the UDA in west Belfast to 'stand down' to be replaced with a "completely lawful group" to look after the needs of former members.
While officially on ceasefire the west Belfast UDA has been linked to widespread criminality in the greater Shankill area.
The organisation is headed up by a figurehead brigadier and another individual, a police informer who was involved in the assassination of solicitor Pat Finucane and was named in the review of the 1989 murder by barrister Desmond de Silva as agent L20.
The de Silva review found that L20 was central to the plot to murder the father-of-three, but despite this has never been charged in connection with the murder.
A previous probe into the solicitor's murder by Sir John Stevens found that of the 300 UDA members he investigated 297 were registered as agents.
A statement carrying a codeword previously used by the UFF, has now called on the current leadership to stand down and allow members who "want to leave to go their own way without any fear of repercussions".
It also claimed that the current Shankill based leadership of the UDA was preventing former members who wish to embrace peace building initiatives to move on by holding them to ransom through threats of violence.
The statement claims that people were no longer willing to "accept the few leaders who live a luxurious lifestyle, raking in thousands every week for themselves while many struggle to support their families".
"It is imperative for the well being of all loyalists in west Belfast that these two individuals be given their marching orders and play no role at all for this new beginning and chance to make a positive contribution to society.
"We envisage a completely lawful group set up to ensure the welfare and needs of members past and present.
"A committee made up of members of with credibility and integrity should be established in order to chart a way forward for those in the organisation who wish to be involved in some capacity and ensure a smooth transition.
"It's no longer acceptable for the UDA/UFF to continued to pollute our communities with drugs and be involved in extortion, intimidating and wrecking the lives of so many families.
"These gangsters days are up and it is time for them to fade into obscurity", the statement added "we cannot let the prevailing situation go on any longer".