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Masterplan UVF plan 'conflict resolution conference' which could see terror group finally stand down

The Sunday World understands continuing concerns about the possibility of facing charges has prompted this latest initiative

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A UVF show of strength during the Troubles

A UVF show of strength during the Troubles

A UVF show of strength during the Troubles

UVF chiefs are set to call a ‘conflict resolution conference’ which could see the terror group finally stand down.

Discussions amongst the organisation’s leadership are ongoing and it is understood a number of obstacles remain in place to the plan, but there is a broad acceptance the organisation cannot continue it is current form.

Despite government plans to grant an amnesty for anyone who committed a conflict-related crime before 1998, there are still concerns that senior figures could still face prosecution for any one of more than 30 murders carried out by the UVF since they declared their ceasefire.

Last week the Sunday World revealed veteran terror chief John ‘Bunter’ Graham had sought to have the amnesty extended to 2005, which was rejected by the British.

The Sunday World understands continuing concerns about the possibility of facing charges has prompted this latest initiative.

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Bunter Graham

Bunter Graham

Bunter Graham

The intention is to invite representatives of the UVF’s six brigades to an all-day conference to discuss ways in which the terror group can safely transition away from violence.

Graham is understood to be keen for the organisation to ‘move as one’ but he faces considerable opposition.

The breakaway East Belfast UVF will almost certainly rebuff any invitation to take part.

The unit has long been at loggerheads with the Shankill leadership and has gone its own way for some time.

Graham’s plan to expel the East and put in a place a new brigadier and command structure has failed to take off. No one wants the job and anyone who does step into the breach places themselves in direct conflict with the expelled leadership.

East Belfast remains the biggest headache for Graham – he has come under intense pressure from the British to ‘sort it out’ but it remains a highly effective organised crime gang and beyond his control.

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“Not all areas will take part,” said our source.

“They don’t want to be seen as a split organisation, so he (Graham) has to find a way to present the UVF as one.”

At stake is millions in community funding and it is understood should he deliver the UVF it is unlikely there will be any appetite to investigate unsolved murders.

Deaths from the UVF/UDA feud in 2000 and high-profile killings such as that of Bobby Moffett in 2010 remain unsolved.

“(If) Bunter delivers the UVF, it will take away any threat of prosecution,” a source said.

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Bobby Moffett

Bobby Moffett

Bobby Moffett

Graham has already moved against a number of figures in their ranks. South East Antrim has been reorganised with Den Elliott stood down as Brigadier and fined £50,000 for alleged involvement in unsanctioned rackets.

Other senior members have been sanctioned and Elliott’s replacement is seen as a ‘safe pair of hands’ and known to be anti-drugs as Graham tries to convince British government negotiators he is serious about finally delivering on his promise to stand the UVF down.

The leadership faces further concerns over the conflict resolution conference, Graham and senior sidekicks such as ‘Harmless’ Harry Stockman have lost the trust of many members, particularly those who were active during the conflict.

It is widely accepted that Graham has been on MI5’s payroll for decades, so there is a natural distrust over his motives. Sources have also claimed he is coming under pressure to reveal who among the leadership have received so-called comfort letters effectively granting them immunity from specific crimes.

There has been controversy over the issuing of ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ letters with a number of high-profile republicans being granted pardons.

Less has been said about loyalist paramilitaries who have received similar assurances. It has been speculated that Graham has one as does UDA chief Jackie McDonald – as well as a number of people believed to have been involved in the murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane.

The speculation comes as victims took their fight for justice to Downing Street where a petition calling for the government to scrap its amnesty plan was handed in to No 10.

And it comes days after a Police Ombudsman report exposed ‘collusive behaviours’ by police in the UDA murder of teenager Damien Walsh in 1993.

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