The body responsible for overseeing decommissioning in Northern Ireland has confirmed that the Ulster Volunteer Force and the Red Hand Commando have disposed of their weapons.

In a statement, the Independent lnternational Commission on Decommissioning, headed by General John de Chastelain, said it had witnessed a 'major decommissioning event'.

On Saturday, both groups indicated that their weapons and explosives were 'totally and irreversibly beyond use'.

The other main loyalist paramilitary group, the UDA, has yet to complete the process.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has welcomed the move, describing it as a 'courageous step'.

Today, a loyalist delegation from the UDA-linked Ulster Political Research Groups met with members of US Congress in Dublin.

It is the first time the Friends of Ireland group from US Congress led by Richard Neal has had contact at this level with loyalists.

It is understood some senior UDA members were present.

UPRG spokesman Frankie Gallagher said afterwards Loyalism was in transition and anxious to engage with a wider audience on its vision for the future.

The group briefed the members of Congress on the problems and issues of social deprivation faced by loyalist communities and reassured them of loyalism's commitment to social, cultural and racial inclusion in a new pluralist Northern Ireland.

It also asked the delegation for their support in removing restrictions on former prisoners obtaining visas in order to visit the US.