Robin Swann to meet PSNI after IRA and INLA demonstrations

UUP leader Robin Swann. Photo: Press Eye, Declan Roughan
UUP leader Robin Swann. Photo: Press Eye, Declan Roughan
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UUP leader Robin Swann will lead a delegation today to meet senior PSNI officers about concerns over terrorist shows of strength associated with recent funerals.

Mr Swann called for the meeting in light of paramilitary trappings linked to two events last month.

Veteran republican Peter ‘Pepe’ Rooney, 63, was buried in Belfast, with the Irish News carrying a photo of “a group of independent ‘veteran’ former IRA members” firing pistols over the coffin ahead of the funeral.

Martin McElkerney’s funeral took place in west Belfast, also last month. Around 20 masked men led the INLA procession, while shots were fired outside his Belfast home ahead of the funeral.

“The questions we have for police are, is this new weaponry or has it been resurrected from old dumps or exactly what is the status of these weapons?” Mr Swann told the News Letter.

He will be accompanied today by the party’s Policing Board representative Alan Chambers and party Chief Whip Steve Aiken.

“It is the worrying nature of this, we see these shows of strength as becoming commonplace and accepted.”

He accepted there could be political ramifications linked to a PIRA assessment.

The North Antrim MLA would also like to see clergy taking a stand against paramilitary demonstrations and suggested the public would welcome other clergy adopting the words of Fr Martin Magill at Lyra McKee’s funeral in April.

“He was speaking about giving education and putting jobs in people’s hands rather than guns,” Mr Swann said.

He added that there was “no discussion about a change of leader” in the UUP despite recently losing an MEP seat the party had held for decades.

Rather, he laid out his plans for the party at an executive meeting last Saturday.

However he was optimistic about ongoing talks to resume power sharing.

“I don’t think it is going to be easy but there seems to be a will there, at this minute in time, from the five parties to get this place up and running again.”

The PSNI reported yesterday that it had arrested a 40-year-old man, understood to be in connection with shots fired over Mr McElkerney’s coffin.

Det Insp Carol Dane said the shots were “shocking and reckless” and were carried out by people “seeking to control communities through fear of violence”.