Northern Ireland news

UDA stage a show of strength hours after police raid home of Dee Stitt

Around 40 members of the North Down UDA have staged a 'show of strength' in Bangor following searches of loyalist Dee Stitt's home.

MORE than 40 members of the North Down UDA have staged a show of strength in Bangor following Paramilitary Crime Taskforce searches of the home of leading loyalist Dee Stitt.

Searches of the 47-year-old's home in the Lord Wardens Court area of Bangor were carried out on Thursday. Police confirmed that the searches were in relation to UDA activity and the misuse of drugs.

Two other properties, including a coffee shop and a second home in the Lord Wardens Court area were also searched.

A small quantity of class B drugs, a stun gun and mobile phones were seized in the searches and taken away for further examination.

Detective Inspector White said: "Officers from the Paramilitary Crime Task Force carried out three searches under the misuse of drugs act in residential properties in Lord Wardens Court and a commercial property on the Rathgael Road area of Bangor.

"This operation was directed against North Down UDA.

"A small amount of class B drugs, a computer hard drive, mobile phones and a taser stun gun have been recovered. An adult male will be interviewed at a later date with another male cautioned at the scene with a report to the PPS to follow.”

Shortly after the searches in a badly composed Twitter message the loyalist said: "PSNI task force hit my house today with avengence, we're here for 5hrs. Got nothing only my families mobiles and kids ipads. No drugs or Guns found here. Trail by media continues. I stand to defend my name and family. I can do no other".

Within hours around 40 men, some with their faces covered, staged a 'show of strength' marching around the Kilcooley estate in daylight hours led by a clearly agitated Stitt. The gathering was captured by a passing motorist and posted on social media.

In October 2016 the Executive Office controversially awarded £1.7m in Social Investment Funding to Charter NI, Stitt is CEO of the organisation.

There was criticism of Arlene Foster's decision to be pictured alongside the self confessed UDA commander during the funding announcement.

That controversy increased when the Charter NI boss gave an interview to the Guardian online and described the loyalist flute band North Down Defenders as "our homeland security".

"It says it in its name, we are here to defend north Down," the convicted armed robber says in a video produced by the Guardian. "From anybody," he said.

There were calls for him to step aside, however, Charter defended their CEO and he remains in the £35,000 a year post despite the PSNI organised crime task force actively targetting the North Down UDA for ongoing criminality and drug dealing.

A spokesperson for The Executive Office said: "TEO has robust processes in place, in relation to all Social Investment Fund projects, to ensure the capability of lead partners and delivery organisations to manage public money and the projects prior to any funding commitments being made. Searches carried out by the Paramilitary Crime Task Force are a matter for the PSNI.”

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