Loyalist disorder: Foster hits out at UDA wing and other ‘malign elements’

Northern Ireland’s First Minister has blamed “malign and criminal elements” for whipping up young people involved in recent violence and disorder.

Tuesday, 6th April 2021, 6:48 pm
The South East Antrim UDA (SEA UDA) has long operated largely seperately from the main bulk of the organisation, headquartered in south Belfast

Arlene Foster called for youths to desist from violence, adding that issues should be resolved at a political level.

It comes as the Stormont Assembly is set to be recalled for an emergency debate following days of violence and disorder.

The DUP leader said she spoke to youth workers across Northern Ireland who said part of the issue is the closure of youth centres because of Covid-19 restrictions.

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“I’ve asked the Executive to look at that urgently and to get those youth centres open immediately... so those youths can come off the streets and come away from some malign influences that are in our society,” Mrs Foster added.

“I certainly think in a particular area of Northern Ireland that there are malign and criminal elements who are whipping up some of our young people.

“I do absolutely accept that that is the case in a particular area of Northern Ireland, but South East Antrim UDA does not have rite in other parts of Northern Ireland, so there are concerns right across Northern Ireland.

“The rule of law is very important to me, individually and as party leader, and last week when it was very clear that the rule of law had been damaged because Sinn Fein presented themselves as above the law, a special status for their funeral whilst everybody else had to deal with the restrictions at particular points in time.

“I recognise that there is huge anger about that. But if the rule of law is to mean anything, it is that everybody is equal under the law and everybody has to be equally subject to the law.

“So I say to young people who are angry at this moment in time – do not get yourself a criminal record. It will blight your life for the rest of your life, you won’t be able to go on holiday where you please to go. So please, please, desist from the violence.

“There is a better way and the way is through politics.”

All the main unionist parties have demanded the resignation of PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne, claiming he has lost the confidence of their community.

Mrs Foster repeated her calls for Mr Byrne to resign, adding that she has no plans to meet with him.

“When I think of all those officers out facing the violence over this past few nights, I really feel for them, because their leadership team has let them down and let them burn really bad,” she added.

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