Doug Beattie MC MLA, the Ulster Unionist Justice Spokesperson, has called for concerted action to be taken against paramilitary crime gangs following this morning's BBC Radio interview with a member of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA).
Doug Beattie MC said:
“This morning’s interview on the BBC Good Morning Ulster programme with a member of the UDA was both disheartening and on many levels a national disgrace – but it was also not a surprise.
“We all know criminals exist in our society and some of those criminals exist in the form of organised crime gangs who we label for ease of reference as ‘paramilitaries.’ These groups comprise drug dealers, traffickers and pimps for prostitutes; they extort money from businesses and communities and are also engaged in the process of money laundering. They are the scourge of society and they must be dealt with by an effective police service using all assets available to it, including the National Crime Agency and a robust justice system. But most of all we need an Executive and an Assembly who will call a spade a spade and stop giving them the credibility and kudos they seem to feed on; be that as loyalist criminals or republican thugs.
“Over the last few weeks the Assembly has debated paramilitary activity in various guises and how to deal with it. An Ulster Unionist Party motion to stop special treatment for those who call themselves loyalist prisoners or dissident republicans was defeated - voted down by all political parties - in essence giving these criminals past, present and future, the kudos of their own prison regime under their perceived paramilitary banner. Only last week an Alliance Party Motion and an amendment from both the SDLP and Ulster Unionists which asked for a more detailed plan for dealing with these groups, was also voted down by the Executive parties. In that debate I said I was pessimistic about tackling paramilitary activity in Northern Ireland because I didn’t see the will in our Executive to do so – I stand by those words.
“It is a matter of fact that the NCA has not received one penny from the Executive or the budget for dealing with organised crime since the Fresh Start Agreement. It is little short of disgraceful that their specialist and strategic skills for dealing with organised crime linked to paramilitary activity have lain redundant for nearly a year.
“We must remove organised crime gangs’ credibility, we must dismantle their infrastructure and we must empower communities to say no to organised crime. But as we ask for our communities to show courage in the face of these individuals, then the Assembly must lead by example and set the tone from the start. This, coupled with effective neighbourhood policing with a PSNI which is resourced and manned correctly, will give us the opportunity to rid our country of these criminals.”