Northern Ireland’s loyalist paramilitaries turn their backs on criminality

A Nothern Ireland loyalist at a bonfire in Belfast’s Sandy Row area. Loyalist paramilitary groups said they would no longer be ‘apologists for conflict’ but ‘advocates for change.’ (Getty Images)
Updated 09 April 2018

Northern Ireland’s loyalist paramilitaries turn their backs on criminality

  • Three loyalist paramilitary groups declared their intention to turn away from the organized crime they shifted into following the 1998 Good Friday Agreement peace deal.
  • In their first joint statement since the 1994 Loyalist cease-fire, the groups said any members involved in criminality would be expelled.

Belfast: Northern Ireland’s loyalist paramilitary groups on Monday declared they would support the law and expel criminals, in a landmark move on the 20th anniversary of the province’s peace accords.
The three groups made a joint statement in which they publicly declared their intention to turn away from the organized crime they shifted into following the 1998 Good Friday Agreement peace deal.
“We fully support the rule of law in all areas of life and emphatically condemn all forms of criminal activity,” the Red Hand Commando, Ulster Defense Association and Ulster Volunteer Force groups said at a press conference in Belfast.
Loyalists are the working-class hardcore of Northern Ireland’s Protestant British community. Their loyalty is to the British crown and keeping Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom.
Loyalist paramilitaries have been on cease-fire since 1994 and officially stopped their armed campaigns in 2007.
The 1998 Good Friday peace accords largely ended three decades of inter-community bloodshed in Northern Ireland, known as the Troubles.
Since then, paramilitary groups have drifted into organized crime, including drug trafficking, money laundering and extortion.
“Individuals who use criminality to serve their own interests at the expense of loyalist communities are an affront to the true principles of loyalism,” the groups said in a statement.
“We cannot allow criminals to hinder transformation and the ground in which such people stand is now shrinking.”
In their first joint statement since the 1994 Loyalist cease-fire, the groups said any members involved in criminality would be expelled.
The agreement came after lengthy discussions with three Protestant church leaders. Churchmen in Northern Ireland have historically played an “honest broker” role in the peace process.
The loyalist paramilitary groups said they would no longer be “apologists for conflict” but “advocates for change.”
“Loyalists must have ownership and control of their own future,” the statement said.
Loyalist paramilitaries are held responsible for around 1,000 of the around 3,500 deaths during the Troubles. Nearly 900 were civilians.
The 1998 peace accords set up the devolved Northern Ireland Assembly, with a power-sharing executive running affairs in the province.
However, power-sharing collapsed in January 2017 amid a breakdown in trust and the province has been in political limbo ever since.
Despite several efforts, the main parties from the British Protestant and Irish Catholic communities are still quibbling and unable to form an executive.


Troops from Niger and France hunt for killers of aid workers in Niger nature reserve

The wreckage of the car where six French aid workers, their local guide and the driver were killed by unidentified gunmen riding motorcycles in an area of southwestern Niger. (AFP)
Updated 10 August 2020

Troops from Niger and France hunt for killers of aid workers in Niger nature reserve

  • Attackers on motorbikes ambushed the group of aid workers as they drove through the giraffe reserve
  • France has 5,100 troops deployed in the arid region south of the Sahara desert

NIAMEY: French and Nigerien soldiers searched through a giraffe reserve and the surrounding area in Niger on Monday for traces of the gunmen who killed six French aid workers, a French military source said.
France’s anti-terrorism prosecutor also opened an investigation into the incident, in which attackers on motorbikes ambushed the group as it drove through the reserve located 65 km (40 miles) from the capital Niamey — an area considered safe by the Niger government.
The French aid workers were employed by the charity ACTED. A local driver working for the relief group and a guide were also killed. ACTED called the murders “senseless and cowardly.”
“This heinous crime must not go unpunished, nor will it distract us from our commitment to support the people of Niger,” said ACTED, which has worked to help vulnerable populations in the country since 2010.
No one has claimed responsibility for the assault. But France and other countries have warned people against traveling to parts of Niger where militants including Boko Haram and an affiliate of Daesh operate.
“Military operations are ongoing today,” the military source said.
In the clearest sign yet that France believes a militant group was behind the attack, the office of France’s anti-terrorism prosecutor said it was launching an investigation on suspicion of the involvement of a terrorist group.
French President Emmanuel Macron said he shared their families’ grief. “Our determination to combat armed terrorist groups is resolute. The fight continues,” Macron tweeted.
The reserve southeast of Niamey is home to West Africa’s last sizeable population of giraffe in the wild. In the wet season, thick green acacia bushes dot the flat, sandy plains.
It is a popular attraction in Niger, a vast country that borders seven states in an unstable region including Libya, Mali, Chad, Algeria and Nigeria.
France, a former colonial power in the region, has 5,100 troops deployed in the arid region south of the Sahara desert since 2013. The United States also has soldiers based in Niger.
Nonetheless, militant violence has been on the rise.