"While we welcome news of the UDA/UFF disarmament, the irony of the fact that these groups were armed by MI5 and RUC Special Branch is not lost on us. We cannot hail this as any kind of real achievement without an honest discussion of British complicity in arming loyalist paramilitary groups over the years of the conflict," IAUC National President, Kate McCabe, said,
"We know that the UDA/UFF were armed with weapons smuggled in from apartheid South Africa through paid British agent Brian Nelson under the watchful eye of Whitehall and Downing Street in 1987 and 1988, and that these very same weapons were then used in hundreds of sectarian murders," said McCabe.
"There continues to be an active interest within Irish America and Congress in uncovering evidence of the collusion that took place with the blessing of the British government.
"The IAUC submitted evidence to this effect at last October's congressional hearing into collusion between police and paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland. Also at this hearing, Representative Bill Delahunt said he believed a key factor in the developing peace process lies in the unsolved murders of the conflict," said McCabe.
She said the IAUC would continue to lobby for American political support for an "operationally independent, international truth commission."
Additionally, the IAUC would also seek a congressional hearing into the Brian Nelson affair and the arming of loyalist paramilitaries by British military intelligence.
The announcement last week by the UDA, the largest loyalist paramilitary group in Northern Ireland, that it had put its weapons permanently beyond use, was elsewhere broadly welcomed.
The U.S. Consulate in Belfast described the move as another important and necessary step along the path to a secure and lasting peace. "America believes that only through dialogue and positive political engagement will the people of Northern Ireland achieve the peaceful and prosperous future they desire and deserve, and this move today further confirms that violence has no place in that future," the U.S. statement said.
In Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton welcomed the move.
"This is a positive step toward securing a lasting peace in Northern Ireland. As I saw first-hand this fall, the people of Northern Ireland have traveled a long way together on the road to peace in the 11 years since the Good Friday Agreement was signed.
"But the journey is not over. That is why this announcement is so important. I want to commend the work of General John de Chastelain and his colleagues in the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning, whose oversight and support was essential to the process, and reaffirm the commitment of the United States to supporting Northern Ireland in its progress towards a future of peace and prosperity," Clinton said.
On Capitol Hill, Rep. Richard Neal, Chairman of the Friends of Ireland, described the UDA move as another important milestone in the continuing effort to transform society in Northern Ireland.
"It is a bold and consequential development by the loyalist leadership that deserves recognition and acknowledgement on both sides of the Atlantic. On behalf of the Friends of Ireland in the United States House of Representatives, I commend them for their historic action, and offer my support to those within loyalism who seek a peaceful and democratic future." Said Neal.
Last June, I led a bipartisan congressional delegation to Dublin to meet with senior loyalists to discuss a wide range of issues. We had a candid and productive conversation, and it was clear that the leaders we met were committed to completing the process of decommissioning, and to providing economic opportunity for the communities they represent," added Neal.
The decommissioning, he said, reinforced the dedication of those same leaders to a peaceful and prosperous way forward.
"I now look forward to working with them, and all the political parties, to complete the peace process and begin to share the peace dividend," Neal said.