The Red Hand Commando, Ulster Defence Association (UDA) and Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) issued a joint statement today on the eve of the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.
“The Good Friday Agreement was created in a spirit of accommodation and its promise was a more inclusive Northern Ireland. There would have been no Agreement without the involvement of loyalists. However, it is time to recommit to the creation of a Northern Ireland that enables all to realise their potential and aspirations. Any community left behind in that ambition represents a failure not only for the peace process, but for Northern Ireland as a whole.
For too long we have been berated for our past and not able to imagine a better future. We must challenge that outlook by no longer being apologists for conflict but advocates for change and working to create a society that is at ease with itself in its diversity and difference.
It was made clear at the time of the CLMC 1994 ceasefire statement that ‘abject and true remorse’ existed for suffering inflicted during the conflict and that remains the case today. However, no-one should ever be excluded from playing a constructive role in the future because of past actions. We therefore seek to fulfil the commitments we made in 1994 by continuing a process of transformation.
We draw attention to the fact that even in the context of republican reliance on divisive identity-politics we continue to maintain a commitment to the peace process. We are fully committed to participation in such a process and will approach it with honesty, integrity and sensitivity. We also recognise the importance of a legacy process designed to help Northern Ireland confront the past and from that experience build a society of possibility and hope. We have made this clear many times and have indeed contributed to previous work on dealing with the past.
We fully support the rule of law in all areas of life and emphatically condemn all forms of criminal activity. Individuals who use criminality to serve their own interests at the expense of loyalist communities are an affront to the true principles of loyalism.
We reject and repudiate as unacceptable and contrary to loyalist principles any criminal action claimed to have been undertaken in our name or attributed to any individual claiming membership of one of our organisations. We further declare that any engagement in criminal acts by any individuals within our organisations will be regarded as placing those persons outside the memberships. This has been collectively agreed. We cannot allow criminals to hinder transformation and the ground on which such people stand is now shrinking.
We seek to make an important contribution to the construction of a peaceful, stable and prosperous Northern Ireland and to support this objective intend to provide strong community leadership and positive influence to promote social, economic and political development.
Loyalists must have ownership and control of their own future. Now is the time for a renewed loyalism, with a new impetus, to meet the challenges ahead. We want to see a better future for all in Northern Ireland and where the residual effects of conflict are recognised and addressed in a reparative manner. We must shape our own destiny, and with the co-operation of others, ensure loyalist communities are at the centre of Northern Ireland’s peace and political transformation.