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Saturday 23 August 2014

President's husband in peace talks with UDA

Published 10/02/2006 | 00:11

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PRESIDENT Mary McAleese's husband is trying to persuade loyalist paramilitaries to hand over their arms. Dr Martin McAleese held private talks with loyalist figures this week to attempt to get them to begin decommissioning.

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Senan Molony

Political Correspondent

PRESIDENT Mary McAleese's husband is trying to persuade loyalist paramilitaries to hand over their arms.

Dr Martin McAleese held private talks with loyalist figures this week to attempt to get them to begin decommissioning.

Aras an Uachtarain is not denying Dr McAleese held talks with senior people connected to the UDA in Belfast on Wednesday.

Officially the President's husband had an engagement at the opening of school computer suites provided in east Belfast by Hewlett Packard.

But he later had talks with Jackie McDonald, Ihab Shoukri and Billy McFarland at a hotel.

Mr Shoukri, a brother of UDA leader Andre 'The Egyptian' Shoukri, had a murder charge against him dropped last year.

Mr Shoukri had been accused of the murder of Alan 'Bucky' McCullough with co-defendant William 'Mo' Courtney, the latter having been separately questioned and released in relation to the murder of solicitor Pat Finucane.

The UDA yesterday ruled out any imminent moves on disarmament after news of the contacts with Dr McAleese leaked out.

Tommy Kirkham of the Ulster Political Research Group (UPRG), insisted the meeting with Dr McAleese was not the prelude to an imminent announcement.

"It's just part of our ongoing process and it wasn't a big deal," he said.

Dr McAleese has met senior UDA figures in the past, and Mr McDonald and others have visited Aras an Uachtarain. Kirkham claimed this encounter was "just building on that relationship".

The Government officially has no view on the activities of Dr McAleese, who is regarded as a private citizen.

Aras an Uachtarain maintains there are no constitutional implications for any peaceful private pursuits Dr McAleese might undertake.

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