Some people in loyalist areas are afraid to go to the police because of the PSNI’s links to the UVF, according to a BBC documentary broadcast this week.
A BBC Spotlight investigation alleged that Winston Irvine, who sits on a number of publicly-funded bodies, including a local policing partnership, is an active UVF commander.
Irvine has played a prominent public role in interface tensions in north Belfast in his role as spokesman for the UVF-linked PUP (Progressive Unionist Party).
Despite declaring a ‘ceasefire’ almost 20 years ago, the UVF’s control of loyalist communities through violence and coercion and its attacks against the nationalist communities has not diminished.
On the BBC documentary, one woman whose nephew was murdered by the UVF said local people within loyalist areas of North Belfast were afraid to contact the police about UVF intimidation because its commander had been accepted onto the local Policing Board.
The programmme also linked senior loyalists to drug dealing, criminality and acts of violence.
Former unionist mayor of Belfast Gavin Robinson recently spoke out against the PSNI for not doing enough to combat the UVF following a particularly brutal ‘punishment shooting’ in east Belfast.
Mr Robinson said people were being “constrained” and “pressurised” by the actions of loyalist gangsters, including drug dealing, extortion and bullying.
The DUP man said his comments about the UVF came out of “frustration to say that I could see no visible signs of the PSNI moving against moving against them”.
Sinn Fein’s Conor Murphy MP received a death threat from the UVF this week. Mr Murphy, who represents Newry and Armagh, received the telephone threat at his Newry constituency office on Tuesday. The caller told Mr Murphy he would be shot dead in his home.
“Considering the antics of the UVF in Belfast of several months now we took the threat seriously,” he said.