UDA chief: we want to strengthen the peace

Jackie McDonald, Ulster Defence Association (UDA)UDA ‘brigadier’ Jackie McDonald has said he wants to meet Ulster Unionist and SDLP leaders to bring loyalists inside the peace process.

He was speaking to the Belfast Telegraph nine days after a meeting with First and Deputy First Ministers Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness.

“We don’t want to be on the outside looking in. We want to be on the inside helping out,” McDonald said.

Now he wants to meet Tom Elliott and Margaret Ritchie. Mr McDonald confirmed that a delegation would travel to the United States to “tell the UDA story”.

“We need to meet everyone and let them judge for themselves whether we are genuine or not,” he told the Belfast Telegraph.

He revealed that he bumped into the SDLP leader at a Stormont event on Monday evening and now wants to meet with her.

He explained his meeting with the First and Deputy First Ministers last Tuesday was as part of a delegation from the Ulster Political Research Group (UPRG).

Mr McDonald said there was still a lot of suspicion about the peace process and still questions about trust.

“If they strengthen relations with the working class people, they strengthen the peace,” he said.

He said he expected further meetings with the First and Deputy First Ministers.