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DUP urged to reject loyalist paramilitaries amid UDA probe

A UDA flag on the Shankill estate in west Belfast. Picture by Mal McCann
Brendan Hughes

THE DUP is facing renewed pressure to distance itself from loyalist paramilitaries after police revealed the scale of a probe into UDA activity in west Belfast.

Almost 30 people are being investigated by the PSNI for alleged membership of the UDA battalion, a court heard yesterday.

The Shankill area unit was described as a sophisticated organised crime gang involved in drugs, punishment beatings and loan sharking.

It follows weeks of controversy over the DUP's response to issues involving loyalist paramilitaries.

The DUP has remained silent over claims last week that Stormont speaker Robin Newton misled the assembly about his role in a UDA-linked community organisation.

Last month four Catholic families were forced to flee their homes in Belfast's Cantrell Close following threats blamed on the UVF.

It followed criticism of the DUP's Emma Little Pengelly when in June she said most people "didn't want a public fuss" about UVF flags put up in the shared housing development.

West Belfast SDLP councillor Tim Attwood said: "All political parties must clearly and unequivocally distance themselves from those who continue to be involved in criminality or who, through word or deed, give those involved in criminality tacit support.

"After a litany of scandals such as the funding of groups involved with UDA-linked individuals and the intimidation of families in Cantrell Close, the DUP in particular must be quicker to distance itself from these people."

A Sinn Féin spokeswoman said: "Political leadership is required from unionism. The DUP should distance themselves from any association with these paramilitary groups.

"These organisations have no place in our society and should disband immediately."

Alliance said paramilitarism is "not just a problem in loyalism, but also republicanism, with the response to date from all sides inadequate".

"In particular all parties and their leaders must give clear indications in both their words and actions that there is zero tolerance for this curse on society," a spokeswoman said.

However, a DUP spokeswoman said: "The DUP does not support or endorse paramilitary activity of any kind. There is no place for any paramilitary organisation in our society.

"Anyone involved in illegal activity must face the full weight of the law. People with such information should bring it to the police.

"We will work with those who leave paramilitary activity behind and want to build a better Northern Ireland."

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