Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann has insisted his party has not asked for, and does not want, the support of paramilitary groups.
The North Antrim MLA spoke out after the Loyalist Communities Council - an umbrella group for illegal loyalist paramilitary groups which was formed two and a half years ago with the stated aim of moving such groups away from criminality - urged voters to come out for unionist candidates in Thursday’s European election, and to not even transfer to parties such as Alliance, claiming that to do so would be “counted as a vote against the Union”.
But responding to the LCC's statement, issued by its chairman, former Ulster Unionist chairman David Campbell, who himself has no paramilitary history, Mr Swann said: “I repeat what I said in 2017. We have not asked for the support of paramilitary organisations nor do we want the backing of organisations still engaged in paramilitary or criminal activity.
“Our position hasn`t changed and remains unequivocal. There is no excuse for the continuing existence of paramilitary organisations in the year 2019 which inflict pain and suffering on families and communities. The quicker that they disband the better.”
In the recent council elections, several Ulster Unionist members blamed attempts to demonise Alliance for boosting its vote at the UUP's expense.