Loyalist Dee Stitt back at work as chief executive of Charter NI despite furore

Chief executive of Charter NI Dee Stitt is returning to work despite political pressure to resign 

UDA leader Dee Stitt returns to his desk as chief executive of publicly funded Charter NI on Wednesday, in defiance of political pressure to quit the top post at the east Belfast organisation.  

The Irish News understands the leading loyalist intends to ignore the views of First Minister Arlene Foster and remain in his £35,000 a year taxpayer-funded job.

A source close to the UDA commander said he intends to stay on as CEO for the foreseeable future, adding "the DUP aren't Charter NI, they should never have announced a resignation when the board hadn't even met to discuss it".

Following intense political and media pressure amid initial support from the DUP, both Ms Foster and DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson said they understood Stitt would announce his resignation.

The Bangor-based loyalist was told to take three weeks holiday following the controversy at the awarding of £1.7 million to the east Belfast community group.

Pressure increased after Stitt gave an interview to the Guardian newspaper during which he referred to a loyalist flute band he's a member of as "homeland security".

The SDLP's Nichola Mallon called for funding to Charter NI to be suspended amid allegations that senior members were still involved in paramilitary criminality.

However, a leading loyalist close to the UDA boss said on Tuesday night: "There's been a lot of politicking around Charter, the SIF fund is £80 million, the focus is on £1.7 million but what about the rest of the money, there are numerous groups with ex prisoners in senior jobs and they're not being questioned.

"Charter is being used by the opposition at Stormont and inter community enemies, stirring things up for political and personal reasons.

"There's no one can say Charter doesn't employ good people and do good work, the organisation has always had critical friends and less subtle enemies but that's the nature of the game".

The Irish News also understands that Stitt led the UDA Remembrance Day wreath laying in Bangor's Kilcooley estate on Sunday before attending a larger loyalist gathering in east Belfast which was also attended by Charter NI director Jimmy Birch.

Sources say that Stitt was determined to play a leading role in order to show he still had the confidence of veteran UDA members despite increasing pressure on him to stand down.

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