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Monday, October 31, 2005 

Loyalist Volunteer Force disbands, now for the rest.

The Loyalist Volunteer Force, one of the most reviled and unpredictable paramilitary groups thrown up by the Northern Ireland Troubles, last night ordered its military units to stand down.

The disbandment came hours after a truce was declared ending a murderous feud between the LVF and the Ulster Volunteer Force from which it broke away in 1996. Billy Wright, better known as "King Rat", founded the group after he and his associates were stood down by the UVF in 1996 following the sectarian murder of a Catholic taxi driver at the height of the Orange Order stand-off at Drumcree. Wright was shot dead in the Maze prison by republicans in December 1997.

In a six-week turf-war across north and east Belfast this summer, the UVF set out to "wipe out" the smaller splinter group, shooting dead four men it perceived to have LVF connections and attempting to murder 15 more. Many LVF members and supporters were forced from their homes.

While the group will claim that its order to military units to stand down, which took effect from midnight last night, was a response to the IRA's decision to disarm, it was under formidable pressure from other loyalists. The LVF, whose relatively small membership was centred around Portadown, Belfast and Antrim, was more a loose gang of criminals and drug dealers, which had been responsible for sectarian murders and violence.

In September 2001, it was behind the first murder of a journalist in Northern Ireland's Troubles.

Police are investigating possible LVF involvement in the murder of Lisa Dorrian, a 25-year-old shop assistant who disappeared from a caravan site in February.


It's now time for the other loyalist paramilitary groupings to follow suit. Sir Reg Empey, leader of the Ulster Unionists was the first mainstream loyalist politician to dare to suggest that the paramilitaries should disband now that the IRA has destroyed its weapons. You can imagine that Ian Paisley would rather kiss the pope than issue the same message. There is no longer any reason why these groups should be allowed to exist; they have and continue to terrorise some Catholic estates, as well as indulging in smuggling and drug dealing. The demonstrations of a couple of months ago, as well as the pettiness and political bankruptcy of the Democratic Unionists has shown that the loyalist community and the politicians that represent it are now the main obstacle to peace being achieved once and for all in Northern Ireland. It's about time that Peter Hain stepped in and stopped pussy-footing around Ian Paisley.

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