Threat against John Finucane: Lack of specific information demonises entire loyalist community, says David Campbell

The lack of specific information about the origin of a "loyalist threat" against Belfast's newly-elected Sinn Fein Lord Mayor has led to the demonisation of an entire community, the chairman of the Loyalist Communities Council (LCC) has claimed.

By Duncan Elder
Wednesday, 22nd May 2019, 6:13 pm
LCC chairman David Campbell.
LCC chairman David Campbell.

David Campbell, chairman of the LCC - an umbrella group for illegal loyalist paramilitary groups which was formed more than two years ago with the aim of moving such groups away from criminality - has called on the PSNI to clarify where exactly the threat against Cllr John Finucane came from.

Cllr Finucane, son of murdered solicitor Pat Finucane, was elected Lord Mayor of Belfast yesterday evening. But just hours later he revealed that police officers had contacted him to tell him of "a threat by loyalists" to attack him at his family home.

Mr Campbell, who himself has no paramilitary history, said he was "taken aback" by the news that a threat had been issued to the new Lord Mayor by loyalists.

Lord Mayor of Belfast, John Finucane. Pic: PA

"There was no definition as to where the threat originated therefore an entire community is effectively demonised as a consequence," he told the News Letter.

"On behalf of the LCC I am calling for clarity from the police and the Lord Mayor as to the source of the threat. Was a recognised code word used? Was the threat clearly from one of the main [paramilitary] organisations? If that was the case then that would raise very serious issues for myself and the LCC. Or was it some obscure, unknown threat, and if that is the case why was that not made clear and why are people who are engaged in peace-making being demonised as a consequence?"

Mr Campbell, a former chairman of the Ulster Unionist Party, stressed that he would condemn any threat against the Lord Mayor "without question".

"What concerns me is if a threat or an attack originates from republican sources it is very quickly defined as dissident, yet if anything originates from a loyalist source it is an entire community and an entire range of organisations that are immediately having the finger pointed at them without any proof.

"I am calling for clarity and an end to the sort of blanket targeting of an entire community when things like this happen.

"The loyalist community isn't just loyalist organisations, it is a range of community groups. It is hundreds of thousands of working class unionists who count themselves as loyalists as well, so it is simply unacceptable that all of us collectively are branded as issuing a new Lord Mayor with a death threat."

Mr Campbell said he is due to raise his concerns with senior police officers, and seek clarification about the source of the threat, on Monday.

A statement issued by Sinn Fein said Councillor Finucane had been informed by the PSNI that loyalists were planning to attack him in his family home.

Speaking after being told of the threat against him, the recently-elected councillor said: “Last night the PSNI came to my home to tell me of a threat by loyalists to attack me in my family home.

“I am committed to serving and representing all the people of this city and I will not be deterred from that by threats from anyone.

“This is not just a threat against me but it is also a threat against democracy.”

Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly commented: “This reprehensible threat against John Finucane has to be condemned.

“The reference to his family home was clearly deliberate, given this is where his father was murdered by loyalists.

“It is a cowardly attempt to intimidate the newly-elected first citizen of Belfast. And while this must be a very traumatic experience for John and his family, I know that he will not be deterred from representing everyone as Ard Mhéara.”

Asked for information about the source of the threat, a PSNI spokesperson said: "We do not discuss the security of individuals and no inference should be drawn from this. However, if we receive information that a person’s life may be at risk, we will inform them accordingly. We never ignore anything which may put an individual at risk."