The three main loyalist organisations - the UDA, UVF and Red Hand Commando - have recommitted their organisations to the principles of the Good Friday Agreement and to the peace process.

In the statement, they said that any criminal acts undertaken by their members will result in the expulsion of those members.

The groups also said that they are seeking "to make an important contribution to the construction of a peaceful, stable and prosperous Northern Ireland."

It is the first time the three groups have come together and issued a joint statement since the Loyalist ceasefire was confirmed in 1994.

The groups said they do not want to be regarded as apologists for conflict but advocates for change, working to create a society that is at ease with itself.

At a news conference in Belfast this morning, they said any engagement in criminal acts by any individuals within their organisations will be regarded as placing those persons outside the memberships.

The joint statement also said they cannot allow criminals to hinder transformation and the ground on which such people stand is now shrinking.

Many loyalists feel they were left behind by what emerged after the Good Friday Agreement.

Political groups associated with them failed to make significant impact and and criminality by people linked to loyalist paramilitary organisations is an ongoing issue.

The participants in the announcement included three leading Protestant clergymen - Methodist Minister Rev Harold Good, who witnessed the decommissioning of IRA weapons, former Church of Ireland primate, Alan Harper and Norman Hamilton, a former Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has welcomed joint statement by the three main loyalist organisations.

In a statement, Mr Varadkar said: "This re-affirmation of the peace process is timely, coinciding with the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.

"The Irish Government is committed to protecting the gains of the peace process in Northern Ireland and across these islands, and we particularly welcome this commitment to ensure loyalist communities are at the centre of Northern Ireland's peace and political transformation."