DUBLIN – DUBLIN (AP) — A panel of terrorism experts ruled Wednesday that a Protestant militant group in Northern Ireland, the Ulster Volunteer Force, killed a Belfast man in May and broke its promise to renounce violence.
Britain and Northern Ireland leaders called on the shadowy organization to admit it killed Bobby Moffett — and to explain whether its cease-fire and disarmament announcement is genuine or a fraud.
Solid cease-fires by rival paramilitary groups underpin the stability of Northern Ireland's Catholic-Protestant power-sharing government. Any breaches are examined by an expert panel called the Independent Monitoring Commission that includes a former CIA director and a Scotland Yard anti-terror chief.
The Ulster Volunteer Force claimed to have disarmed fully last year and have denied killing Moffett. But the experts' investigation concluded that UVF leaders did approve the killing because Moffett, a former UVF member, had a face-to-face argument with a UVF commander and then smashed up the commander's car.
On May 28, gunman walked up behind Moffett on a busy street, shot him once in the torso, then twice more as he lay on the sidewalk. The head of a UVF-linked political party, Dawn Purvis, resigned as leader of the Progressive Unionists because she didn't want to be associated with any renewal of UVF bloodshed.
The report found that the UVF preferred a "public execution" in front of witnesses, including children, because it wanted to demonstrate to its Protestant community that it "was not prepared to have its authority flouted."
However, the experts stopped short of recommending that Britain withdraw its recognition of the UVF cease-fire. Britain's secretary of state for Northern Ireland, Owen Paterson, said the findings of UVF guilt in the killing meant that the UVF must publicly reaffirm its commitment to peace.
Local politicians, particularly from the Irish Catholic minority, accused Britain of giving a green light to paramilitary gangs to mount occasional killings without any political repercussions.
Margaret Ritchie, whose Social Democratic and Labour Party represents moderate Catholic opinion, said the lack of any punishment for the UVF "sends out very worrying signals."
"Does that mean that a planned killing is to be regarded as par for the course and acceptable? And, of course, it begs the question: What actually does constitute a breach of cease-fire by the UVF?" she asked.
The UVF killed more than 500 people, mostly Catholic civilians, from 1966 to 1994 in a self-described war against the outlawed Irish Republican Army, which operated from Catholic areas. The IRA killed nearly 1,800 people in a failed 1970-97 campaign to oust Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom, then renounced violence and disarmed in 2005.