Northern Ireland

Gusty Spence calls for UVF to disband

Gusty Spence
Image caption Gusty Spence said there was no reason for the UVF to exist

The loyalist who founded the modern-day Ulster Volunteer Force has told BBC's Spotlight the group should disband.

Gusty Spence, who organised the UVF in the 1960s, made the call in the wake of the murder of Bobby Moffett, shot dead by UVF members in May.

Mr Spence told Spotlight that ongoing violence could not be justified.

"The UVF should disband now," he said in a statement to reporter Darragh MacIntyre. "There is no reason for them to exist."

The programme, broadcast on Tuesday, shows how the Moffett murder and a high-level police investigation have brought the UVF to a critical juncture between disbandment and further violence.

Sixteen years after declaring a ceasefire and more than three years after announcing a "non-military civilianised role", the UVF has been implicated in the murder of Belfast man Mr Moffett, continued "punishment attacks", and recent rioting in Rathcoole.

Senior figures in the UVF - the deadliest loyalist group throughout the Troubles - have recently pushed for the organisation to wind up.

But others, including a UVF spokesman who talked to Darragh MacIntyre, said there was potential for more militant elements to gain the upper hand within the paramilitary group.

'Great heartache'

Chris Hudson, who previously acted as a go-between for the Irish government and the UVF, told the programme: "This is one loose end that, if it is not tidied up, may cause us great heartache in the near future."

Brian Ervine, the new leader of the political party associated with the UVF, told Spotlight that a senior north Belfast loyalist's apparent decision to become a "supergrass" could harden the position.

Riots in Newtownabbey's Rathcoole estate last month were linked to the police investigation involving that loyalist.

Mr Ervine, the Progressive Unionist leader, said: "A lot of men want to move on, they want to civilianise, this could deter them from doing that, some of them."

A UVF spokesman also told Darragh MacIntyre that the police investigation could lead to the arrest of senior figures and destabilise the organisation.

Image caption Bobby Moffett was shot dead by UVF gunmen on the Shankill Road

"I don't want to be sabre-rattling, but it would be a completely different scenario. All bets would be off," he said.

Last week the Independent Monitoring Commission said the UVF leadership has sanctioned intelligence gathering against dissident republicans.

It also said individual members may be trying to acquire guns just a year after it was announced that the group had decommissioned.

Lord Alderice, a member of the IMC, said: "It's not clear that the leadership is wholly in control of what is happening in all areas.

"The situation is clearly worse than it was before, and it has been deteriorating, and it's a matter of real concern."

Spotlight - Decision time for the UVF is available on the BBC iPlayer for viewers in the UK until 16 November.

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