Relatives of people murdered by loyalists criticise NIO meeting
RELATIVES of people killed by loyalists have criticised a decision by the Northern Ireland Office to meet representatives of paramilitary groups.
Officials took part in the 90-minute virtual meeting with the Loyalist Communities Council (LCC), an umbrella group which represents the UVF, UDA and Red Hand Commando.
The delegation, which included Winston Irvine, Jimmy Birch and Robert Williamson, discussed the Irish Sea border and implications for the union.
They also asked the NIO if new US President Joe Biden was "briefed on the need for impartiality and respect for the majority position in Northern Ireland when it comes to dealing with NI-US issues".
Nationalist politicians and relatives of people killed by loyalists have criticised the meeting.
Joe McCrystal, whose father Joseph (25) died a day after being shot as he returned to his home at Longlands Park in Newtownabbey in November 1972, last night said he was “disgusted”.
The murder was blamed on the UDA.
“It something that riles me inside and it just burns at me because the (Police) Ombudsman is still investigating my father’s death," he said.
“The truth and justice is more important to me than anything.”
Joseph Kelly’s father, also Joseph Kelly (44), was shot dead as he travelled on a bus in east Belfast in December 1972.
Aged just 12 at the time his father was killed, the 60-year-old also said he is still waiting on the “truth”.
Mr Kelly said the loyalist paramilitary groups "are not supposed to exist".
“Who is the NIO meeting with?
“The NIO is jumping through hoops for these people and here we are nearly 50 years on.... that’s how the past still exists in the present.
“I think it’s a dagger in the heart for people like (me).”
Mike Ritchie from Relatives for Justice said: “I think people are absolutely furious that the NIO are meeting loyalists.
“There is no call for them to disarm and disband and yet the NIO is meeting with them and refuse to meet politician representatives about the Stormont House Agreement over the past year.”
The NIO said it “meets regularly with groups and individuals from across all parts of the community.
“It is important that we hear a wide range of views.”