The comments by Dee Stitt shine an important spotlight on the murky links between loyalist paramilitaries and some community groups.
His comments came in the same week that Margaret Irwin from Justice for the Forgotten, launched her excellent book “A State in Denial” in Belfast.
It is a detailed, provocative and alarming account of British collaboration with loyalist paramilitaries throughout the Troubles. The British are condemned by their own words as the book is based on official British and Irish documents.
For far too long despite evidence of loyalist atrocities, the state failed to act.
As the book states: “Despite its knowledge of loyalist responsibility for a high percentage of sectarian killings during the 1970s, the British Government batted away all concerns and complaints from the Irish government, SDLP and the Catholic Church, even criticising them for expressing concern.
“There was a continuous imperative to maintain publicly the implausible fiction that the UDA was separate from the UFF. This myth was sustained for 20 years”
Today, there appears to be an equal imperative to support some loyalist community organisations, through the Social Investment Fund, and maintain publicly the implausible fiction that these organisations are somehow separate from the UDA.
The only difference is, it is not the British but the DUP/SF NI Executive batting away legitimate concerns about SIF funded organisations inextricably linked with the UDA.
It appears that the state was not only in denial in the past but very much in the present.
Tim Attwood, Cllr, SDLP West Belfast