Northern Ireland news

Brandon Lewis calls on LCC to condemn recent violence as he reveals the chief constable has spoken to David Campbell

Brandon Lewis called on the LCC to break its silence on recent violence

THE SECRETARY of state last night joined the growing chorus of politicians calling for the Loyalist Communities Council (LCC) to break its silence on recent disorder.

Brandon Lewis, who last month defended his officials for meeting the paramilitary umbrella group, said it would be "good to see more community leaders" condemning recent loyalist street violence.

He described the LCC, which purports to speak on behalf of the UVF, UDA and Red Hand Commando, as a "good example" of community leaders.

Mr Lewis revealed that Chief Constable Simon Byrne had spoken to LCC chairman David Campbell, who has faced criticism over recent days for a lack of public engagement.

Mr Campbell, a former chairman of the Ulster Unionist Party, 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."

The group last month withdrew its support for the Good Friday Agreement in protest at the imposition of the Irish Sea border.

Speaking to The Irish News last night, the secretary of state urged the LCC to make a statement condemning recent violence.

"The more people that do this the better because it gives a very clear message," he said.

He said it would be the "right thing" for the LCC to be "very clear (they are) against violence".

"There is a proper political process and they have been clear that violence in the past is not the way to move forward and they need to be clear about that again," he said.

"I would like to see them out condemning what we have seen over the last few days, and call on people in communities to behave in a way that allows the political process to represent them and work with them and people to get involved in that."

Mr Lewis said the PSNI had made it clear that criminal gangs were "encouraging and driving" the violence.

He said the chief constable had pointed to an "element of pushback" against recent PSNI successes in combating criminal behaviour.

Asked whether the LCC represented criminal gangs, the secretary of state said he did not speak for the group.

The PSNI did respond to a request for it to confirm if the chief constable had spoken to Mr Campbell.

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