Northern Ireland news

Loyalist paramilitary spokesman still silent on street violence

Trouble flares in Carrickfergus in the early hours of yesterday morning. Picture by Pacemaker

THE GROUP purporting to represent loyalist paramilitaries, whose chairman warned that opponents of the Northern Ireland Protocol would "fight physically", has still yet to comment on the recent spate of street violence.

The Loyalist Communities Council (LCC), which claims to represent the UVF, UDA and Red Hand Commando, has been challenged to break its silence following consecutive nights of rioting in Belfast, Derry and Co Antrim.

The group's spokesman is David Campbell, a former chairman of the Ulster Unionist Party, who said in February: "If it comes to the bit where we have to fight physically to maintain our freedoms within the UK, so be it."

Nationalists and unionists, including former UUP leader Mike Nesbitt, have called on the group to comment on recent incidents which have seen more 40 police officers being injured.

The News Letter yesterday carried a platform by Mr Campbell, however, it made no reference to recent rioting in loyalist areas and sought to blame the Dublin government's "threat of violence" for the Irish Sea border.

Elsewhere in the piece, the LCC spokesman said opposition to the protocol would be" peaceful, democratic, and consistent with the sound leadership shown by Arlene Foster".

Mr Campbell and the LCC's continued silence was criticised by SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly, who also accused the main unionist parties of a "failure of leadership".

"What's been happening in our communities over the last week needs to be called out for what it is - child abuse," she said.

"Loyalist paramilitaries are happy to send children onto our streets armed with lethal petrol bombs to attack the police and ruin their lives but when asked to explain themselves, the self declared representatives of paramilitaries remain silent."

The Upper Bann MLA called for an end to the street violence.

The Alliance Party said the lack of comment from Mr Campbell and the LCC on current violence and attacks on police officers was "striking".

"By contrast they have had plenty to say over recent months in contributing to current tensions," a spokesperson said.

"Everyone with any influence should be doing all they can to calm the current situation."

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