Northern Ireland news

PSNI ‘assures' Executive there are ‘no concerns' about work of Charter NI

 Charter NI chief executive Dee Stitt

THE PSNI has "assured" Executive ministers there are "no concerns" about the work of Charter NI after a senior police officer linked some members to paramilitary activity in the last year.

The first minister met the chief constable on Monday to discuss a radio interview given by a senior officer last week in which he said people connected to the publicly funded community organisation have been involved in recent UDA activity.

Alleged UDA commander Dee Stitt is the chief executive of the east Belfast organisation which was awarded 1.7 million of Social Investment Fund (SIF) money earlier this year.

Following the meeting the Executive Office released a statement in which it said Chief Constable George Hamilton and Deputy Chief Constable Drew Harris had assured the ministers that the PSNI "has no concerns about the work of Charter NI".

"It was also explained that the PSNI would itself continue to work with Charter NI," the statement continued.

The Executive Office said the first minister had "emphasised that any individuals associated with Charter NI or any community enterprise must make a clear choice between paramilitarism and legitimate community work. There can be no acceptance of or ambivalence towards illegal activity.

First Minister Arlene Foster attended the meeting along with Health Minister Michelle O'Neill, who was representing Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, and Justice Minister Claire Sugden.

There had been calls for funding to Charter NI to be suspended after Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Martin told Radio Ulster's Nolan Show last Friday that there are "people connected to Charter who are connected to the UDA".

Dee Stitt has been resisting calls to step down as chief executive and the Charter NI board has continued to back him.

ACC Martin told the Nolan Show: "I would believe certainly that there may be an individual or individuals connected to Charter who have certainly been recently active".

It is believed that the Executive Office had already received a private briefing from police about the activities of the UDA in north Down.

Chairman of Charter NI Drew Haire said on Friday the board had asked for a meeting with the PSNI to discuss the allegations, saying he was "worried and concerned for organisation".

"We wouldn't want anyone to form the view that we do not take the whole issue seriously," Mr Haire said.

"There are good people doing good work, our first concern as a board is that's recognised.

"I have already placed a call to police headquarters to arrange a meeting with the PSNI to discuss what was said.

"We don't support or condone any illegal activity of any kind. If it is proven there is illegal activity taking place then obviously the board members will consider their position".

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