The DUP has been accused of attempting to “curry favour” with loyalist paramilitaries.
The claim was made by the TUV today after a comment appeared on the West Belfast DUP Facebook page, stating the TUV had a “personal vendetta” against paramilitaries.
Last month, TUV councillor Andrew Girvin posted on Facebook: “I wonder how many SFIRA election transfers will be given to DUPUDA.”
West Belfast DUP responded on the social media site today, stating: “It seems the TUV have a personal vendetta not only with the DUP but now loyalist paramilitaries.”
The post was deleted about three hours after it was published.
A TUV spokesperson said the remarks raised “profound questions about the DUP’s attitude to paramiltaries”.
The DUP’s Assembly candidate in West Belfast is Frank McCoubrey, who was once a member of the UDA-linked Ulster Political Research Group.
Criticising West Belfast DUP’s remarks, the TUV spokesman added: “In July the DUP and Sinn Fein Executive published a report which claimed that they were going to tackle paramilitaries.
“This post suggests that the DUP are more concerned with currying favour with paramilitaries than tackling them.”
The spokesman added that the TUV’s attitude towards paramilitaries was “unambiguous”, stating: “They are a blight on Northern Ireland society and need to go.
“To suggest that we have a ‘vendetta’ against them is, however, ironic when one remembers that a vendetta is defined as a “blood feud” between criminal gangs.
“It is odd indeed that the DUP would seek to portray themselves as the champions of victims and the opponents of rewriting the past while criticising TUV for its attitude towards groups which are proscribed as terrorist organisations.”
Alliance candidate Stewart Dickson called for the DUP to clarify the comments made on Facebook, stating: “It seems the DUP have an issue with people having a problem with loyalist paramilitaries. It is 2017 – paramilitaries should no longer even exist.”
Aileen Quinton – whose mother was killed in the 1987 IRA bomb in Enniskillen – also hit out at the remarks.
She wrote: “They are not ‘paramilitaries’. They are terrorists/hoods/thugs. They are not to the legitimate military what paramedics are to the medical profession. This association is in their heads it should not be in our language.”
The DUP has moved to distance itself from the comments, with a spokesperson saying the party is “opposed to all terrorism and paramilitary activity, regardless of where it emanates from”.
A statement from the party added: “We will work with those who want to build a better and peaceful future and are working for a Northern Ireland free from all paramilitary groups.
“The comments posted do not represent the views of the DUP.”