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Northern Ireland news

UDA commander Jackie McDonald says loyalists will have 'no problem' endorsing rule of law

Loyalist Jackie McDonald
Lesley-Anne McKeown, Press Association

Genuine loyalists will have "no problem" endorsing the rule of law, a UDA commander has said.

Jackie McDonald described the paramilitaries' declaration of transformation as a "process" and urged the wider community to support it.

He said: "Personally I cannot see what any genuine loyalist in this country, what problem they would have with this statement.

"Anyone outside loyalism calling themselves a loyalist will have massive problems with it. We are genuine."

The statement was issued during a news conference at Belfast's Linen Hall Library on Monday.

It stated the Red Hand Commando, Ulster Defence Association and Ulster Volunteer Force were turning their backs on criminality and will expel members who break the law.

Three former senior Protestant church leaders also backed the initiative.

Answering questions about differences with other statements issued by loyalists in recent years, Mr McDonald said: "Obviously, if you see the people on the stage here with us, that's a profound difference.

"I'd like to thank, by the way, the members of the churches here today and the other members that have been with us over the many, many months it's taken to draw this statement up.

"It wasn't written on the back of a beer mat in some club or pub.

"It's taken a lot of serious soul searching; a lot of thinking about the problems we've had in the past, thinking about the problems we have at the minute.

"We are beginning process here and for once we need people, the media, the politicians, the PSNI, everyone to support us and accept that this is a genuine statement.

"We intend to carry it out."

Loyalists ended military activity in 1994 but have been behind criminal activities such as drug dealing, racketeering and extortion.

Last year a new task force involving the police, National Crime Agency and Customs officials was set up to tackle the scourge of paramilitarism.

Former Methodist president Harold Good said if the church leaders were not convinced of the loyalists' "total sincerity" they would not have lent their support.

He said: "Unreservedly and wholeheartedly, we are encouraging it and have been supporting it and [are] privileged to be part of this journey."

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