IAN Paisley Jr’s extraordinary claim that Sinn Fein vetoed the creation of the National Crime Agency (NCA) because the party has links to organised crime raises questions about the DUP’s justification for staying in the Stormont Executive, Jim Allister has said.
The TUV leader said that the North Antrim MP’s claims – made at Westminster on Tuesday – vindicated his opposition to devolving policing and justice powers to Stormont, given that it is only because of that transfer of powers that Sinn Fein and SDLP ministers have been able to block the NCA.
But last night Mr Paisley hit back and accused Mr Allister of focusing his fire on “fellow unionists”.
Mr Allister said: “If Ian Paisley Jr believes that Sinn Fein are ‘quite content to allow paedophiles and international gangsters to run writ across Northern Ireland’ one does have to ask if he now believes his party made a mistake in going into government with the IRA’s political wing.
“Does the First Minister agree with the comments of one of his MPs? If he does why does he remain in government with Sinn Fein?
“Also remember this is the same Ian Paisley Jr who defended Sinn Fein’s elevation to government on the basis that the DUP ‘succeeded in ensuring that before Sinn Fein could get into government they signed up publicly to support for the rule of law’.”
He added: “However, now Mr Paisley is saying that we have a situation where the person responsible for most illegal fuel in the UK is ‘a friend of the leader of Sinn Fein’ and that Sinn Fein blocked the creation of a National Crime Agency in Northern Ireland because they have a ‘vested interest’ in keeping ‘criminal power intact’.”
In a statement last night, Mr Paisley said that the SDLP and Sinn Fein approach to the creation of the NCA was “not a credible position”.
He said: “These same parties campaign for extra police resources yet they are snubbing resources to crack down on organised crime such as drug smuggling, fuel laundering, human trafficking or paedophile rings.
“It is not surprising that rather than tackle the Sinn Fein and SDLP arguments on this issue Jim Allister has turned his wrath on fellow unionists.
“At a time when the pro-Union community is crying out for unionists to work together Jim is driving a wedge and playing politics.
“Just because of devolution the DUP will not shy away from challenging either the SDLP or Sinn Fein on this issue. The question must be asked why they seem to be standing closer to the criminals rather than law and order.”
Labour shadow secretary of state Vernon Coaker called on the Government to act to resolve confusion about the NCA’s role in Northern Ireland. However, unlike Mr Paisley, who had suggested that the Government should be prepared to implement the NCA over the head of the Executive, Mr Coaker urged the Government to continue working with Stormont on the issue.
He said: “Labour has consistently called for measures to ensure NCA operations are subject to stringent accountability. This is to ensure public confidence and help the NCA do its work effectively. We have also repeatedly urged the Government to reach agreement with the Northern Ireland Executive on these matters.”