A unionist politician has challenged the British government to arrest him if it believed his party had a say over the actions of the paramilitary ‘Ulster Volunteer Force’ and ‘Red Hand Commando’.
David Ervine, leader of the tiny Progressive Unionist Party, lashed out after British Direct Ruler Peter Hain threatened to withhold their assembly allowances.
In a written statement, Mr Hain disclosed that he was considering removing the PUP’s entitlement to the allowances for another year.
The British agency that monitors paramilitary ceasefires, the IMC is to examine the ongoing feud between the UVF and the breakaway Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF), which has left two men dead in recent weeks.
This morning, an attempted murder was reported after shots were fired at a house in east Belfast. The shooting is also believed to be linked to the feud.
The PUP, whose leader Mr Ervine is its sole assembly member, and Sinn Féin, both had their financial allowances withdrawn last year after an IMC report.
“I have considered carefully the IMC’s report and I have today written to the Progressive Unionist Party to advise them that I am minded to remove for a period of 12 months the party’s entitlement to financial assistance payable to political parties,” said Mr Hain. “I have provided the PUP with seven days from today to make representations to me.”
David Ervine was dismissive of the IMC. “I want to hear what are his (Peter Hain’s) intelligence services telling the IMC? . . . The IMC is an annoyance, a trial by four horsemen riding Shetland ponies.”
“The reality is our record speaks for itself - our desires and wishes for Northern Ireland have been well laid out.
“It is against all the tenets of natural justice that people who are not responsible for what paramilitaries do are punished in this way.
“I am the leader of the PUP. If I have broken any laws or rules, I would like to be arrested and charged now.”