Finucane: Govt should not meet groups linked to armed criminals
Sinn Fein has hit out at the fact government ministers met this week with a loyalist group with terrorist connections.
The Loyalist Communities Council (LCC) has said its members have been attempting to “calm” loyalist anger over the NI Protocol.
The LCC, a body which has tried to bring together former members of the UVF, UDA and Red Hand Commando, said it now aims to obtain a meeting with a leading EU figure Maroš Šefčovič to impress upon him the problems caused by the Brexit protocol.
Sinn Fein however said it was “very concerning” that the government was meeting with a body that has ties to armed gangs.
It comes against a backdrop of widespread rioting last month in loyalist areas (including Belfast, Newtownabbey, and Carrickfergus) – which some observers had blamed on paramilitaries – and a number of peaceful-but-illegal unnotified band parades to vent anger at the Protocol and “two-tier policing”.
It emerged today that the LCC had met with both the Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis and Brexit minister Lord Frost on Monday of this week.
It is not clear exactly who from the group was involved in the meeting; it said only that it was a “small contingent” led by chairman David Campbell (who has no paramilitary or criminal ties himself).
The LCC said: “The delegation emphasised the need for significant change to the NI Protocol to bring it back into consistency with the Belfast Agreement, and to remove the clear change in the status of Northern Ireland that has occurred due to the imposition of the Protocol.
“Members advised Lord Frost of the efforts they had to make to try and calm the wider unionist community and appealed to him to ensure that the Prime Minister honoured his commitments to seek, and if necessary unilaterally legislate, to reach an agreement on a workable alternative.
“The LCC also advised Lord Frost that they were seeking a meeting with EC Vice-President Šefčovič to ensure that he understands how the Belfast Agreement has been breached by the Protocol.”
The LCC has been in existence since 2015. Among its initiatives has been to replace paramilitary flags with more neutral unionist-themed ones.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “The UK Government regularly meets with groups and individuals from across all parts of the community and it is important we hear a diverse range of views. We are going to continue to engage widely.”
A statement from Sinn Fein MP John Finucane said: “This is a body which represents armed loyalist criminal gangs and it has been reported that they were at the meeting.
“Such armed gangs are involved in murder, extortion and drug dealing and were behind the recent disturbances which saw police officers injured, property damaged and people terrified.
“Armed gangs have no place in our society, and certainly not in meetings on Brexit with British government ministers.
“For years the British state directed loyalist death squads. The British government now needs to clarify its position and whether it retains a cosy relationship with illegal armed criminal gangs.”
A message from the Editor:
Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.
With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our advertisers — and consequently the revenue we receive — we are more reliant than ever on you taking out a digital subscription.
Subscribe to newsletter.co.uk and enjoy unlimited access to the best Northern Ireland and UK news and information online and on our app. With a digital subscription, you can read more than 5 articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Visit https://www.newsletter.co.uk/subscriptions now to sign up.
Our journalism costs money and we rely on advertising, print and digital revenues to help to support them. By supporting us, we are able to support you in providing trusted, fact-checked content for this website.