UUP man: I wouldn’t be surprised if UDA faction re-armed

A new UDA mural in Carrickfergus in early 2015.
A new UDA mural in Carrickfergus in early 2015.

A claim that the South East Antrim UDA has obtained weapons from English-based crime networks is no surprise, given the group’s drug trade links.

That is the view from UUP MLA Roy Beggs, who was responding to remarks made by a self-proclaimed member of a UDA faction in a BBC interview.

The man’s claims – which are now being looked at by police – were aired anonymously on Monday to protect him from reprisals, said the BBC.

In the interview the man talked about how the South East Antrim UDA would take a cut of profits from burglars and drug dealers in the regions it controls.

He also said good-quality weapons remain in the group’s hands dating back from before the decommissioning process, and that members have also “bought some newer weapons from drug gangs in Manchester”.

Members can get their hands on weapons “within 20 minutes or half an hour” if they choose to, he added.

The South East Antrim UDA has basically been a separate group from the mainstream UDA since an internal split in 2007.

In February 2010, UDA representatives told the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning the south-east Antrim faction had decommissioned all its weapons.

PSNI chief Inspector Stephen McCauley said: “Police are currently reviewing the contents of the interview.”

Roy Beggs, who has recently condemned the spread of terror murals in the east Antrim area, said that – having spoken to UDA members himself – he found the BBC interview “very credible”.

Mr Beggs said: “We shouldn’t be surprised that those who are selling drugs would have acquired weapons through some of the drugs groups that are supplying them...

“I’ve always assumed they retained some weapons, and would not be surprised if they have purchased additional weaponry from their organised crime activities.”