Sammy Wilson rejects paramilitary ‘mediation’ idea for Carrick

South East Antrim UDA tribute in Greenisland, just south of Carrickfergus
South East Antrim UDA tribute in Greenisland, just south of Carrickfergus

A police claim that mediation could help resolve a bitter paramilitary dispute in Carrickfergus has been dismissed by the area’s MP.

Sammy Wilson was commenting after it emerged the PSNI has spent £1.6 million policing the activities of the South East Antrim UDA – mainly centred on the town’s Castlemara estate.

Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Martin told a meeting of the policing board on Thursday that police were extremely concerned about the situation in Carrick.

In October it also emerged that 60 people had received death threats connected with the loyalist feud.

ACC Martin said nine people had been charged with various offences associated with the paramilitary activity – including drugs, intimidation, and possession of weapons – since May this year, and added: “This is an absolute waste of police time and public money. Money that should be spent on normal day-to-day community policing.

“The police have also recovered guns and cocaine during searches. Clearly the gangs involved in this dispute care nothing about the people living in this area, many of whom are living in fear.”

On Friday, DUP MP Mr Wilson said: “I believe that the answer to any criminal activity has to be proper action by the police and the courts. The people who are perpetrating these acts should be dealt with accordingly.

“The vast majority of people in Castlemara don’t want the kind of stigma which is attached to the area. It’s a good community.”

Asked specifically for his reaction to the PSNI’s call for mediation, he told the Nolan Show: “I think the police are wrong on that”.

Police District Commander Ryan Henderson said the PSNI had “no tolerance” for paramilitary activity in the area, and said the suggested mediation was only one aspect of a wider police response.

“It is a police presence of Land Rovers, we are doing stops and searches, we are doing checkpoints – it is very proactive,” he said.

“Our information, and what we see in terms of incidents happening, is that it has had an impact. As the PSNI we are obliged to try to reduce that risk...where we think people are trying to do each other harm it is our job to try to stop them”

In direct response to Mr Wilson’s rejection of mediation, Supt Henderson said: “The PSNI has to encourage anything that can help to reduce what we see as a serious risk.”

• Detectives investigating paramilitary activity in the Carrick area have charged a 37-year-old man with possession of a firearm and ammunition with intent. The suspect was arrested on Thursday following the discovery to two loaded guns at Buskin Place on October 28. Three men arrested in Greenisland in connection with the same incident have been released pending a report to the PPS. A fourth man was released unconditionally.