Four men with links to the UDA are expected to be granted visas by the US State Department to attend a series of events in Washington and New York.

The four men have developed a working relationship with Senator Martin McAleese, the husband of President Mary McAleese.

Their visa applications have been supported by the Department of Foreign Affairs.

The four leading loyalists, all with links to the loyalist paramilitary group, are Jackie McDonald, Jimmy Birch, John Bunting and Denis Cunningham.

Because of their backgrounds, special permission is required to allow them enter the US. They will travel on British passports.

The US State Department, under Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and the Department of Foreign Affairs have supported their visa applications.

They will attend a number of political and business briefings in New York and Washington early next month.

Among the politicians expected to meet them are Congressmen Peter King and Richie Neal, two leading Irish Americans, who often talked to the likes of Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams and former SDLP leader John Hume in the past.

The four loyalists are part of a group that has been involved in dialogue with Senator McAleese.

They were among the guests at Islandbridge during the State visit by Queen Elizabeth in May.

As they left that ceremony, President McAleese and her husband made a point of shaking hands with the loyalists.