Northern Ireland news

Loyalist Communities Council silence on paramilitary loan sharking 'disappointing but not surprising'

A UVF mural in east Belfast. Picture by Hugh Russell

THE FAILURE of the Loyalist Communities Council (LCC) to speak out against paramilitary loan sharks has been described as "disappointing but not surprising".

The remarks by SDLP justice spokesperson Sinéad McLaughlin come amid claims that money lenders in loyalist areas may be demanding £600 energy payments from vulnerable households to pay off debts.

Police have urged anyone who is a victim of loan sharks or may have information about illegal money lending to report it.

Interest rates on the unregulated loans are said to be up to 40 per cent.

Read more: How paramilitary-linked loan sharks are exploiting the cost of living crisis


SDLP MLA Sinéad McLaughlin. Picture by Stephen Latimer


Rev Brian Anderson of the East Belfast Mission said he feared the money paid to households to alleviate the impact of soaring energy costs could quickly end up in the hands of paramilitaries.

"The danger is they will come looking for you to get their money back because they know you have got £600," he told UTV earlier this week.

"The intentionality of the money was to help with electric and energy costs but my fear is that people may loose it because somebody may demand it off them – that could lead people into criminality if they don’t pay up."


Rev Brian Anderson


Ms McLuaghlin said reports of paramilitary loan sharks targeting households in receipt of the £600 energy payment were "deeply concerning".

"This money will be a hugely important lifeline to people across the north and many will simply be unable to heat their homes over the next few months without it," she said.

"Paramilitaries prey on the most vulnerable in our society and I would urge anyone who is targeted in this way to come forward to police and community organisations to seek support – nobody, whether a paramilitary organisation, landlord or anyone else is entitled to take this money from you, it’s intended to help households dealing with staggering energy bills and there are many people who desperately need it."

The Foyle MLA also highlighted the lack of any comment from the LCC, an umbrella group that represents elements of the UVF, UDA and Red Hand Commando, which was set-up in 2015 to tackle criminality and educational under-achievement in working class unionist communities.


Loyalist Community Council spokesman David Campbell. Picture by Stephen Davison


However, in recent times the group's public statements, issued by its chairman David Campbell, have focused solely on the protocol and attacking the Dublin government.

"Given the Loyalist Communities Council have been extremely vocal when it comes to other matters impacting people in the north it’s disappointing, but not surprising that they have declined to speak out on this important issue," Ms McLaughlin said.

Mr Campbell was contacted by The Irish News but did not respond.

The PSNI said it had yet to receive any reports of loan sharks specifically targeting those in receipt of the £600 energy payments but said anybody who witnesses such incidents should report them.