The unionist paramilitary UDA is still heavily involved in extortion rackets, the PSNI police has said, despite the British government handing the group 1.2 million pounds sterling last week.
According to British officials, the funding was intended to encourage the former death-squads away from violence and racketeering. Victims of collusion between the UDA death-quads and British forces have expressed outrage at the payment.
The nationalist SDLP has also criticised the grant, which was channeled through the UDA-run UPRG (Ulster Political Representatives Group).
“It hurts to think that the money contributed by my constituents in income tax is now being used to reward the agents of the killer gangs who murdered their relations and friends at Castlerock, Greysteel and elsewhere,” said SDLP East Derry Assembly member John Dallat.
“It is like being made to pay for the bullets that killed them. There is no evidence that the UPRG is anything more than an apologist organisation for killer gangs who haven’t decommissioned a single gun, bullet or pipe bomb. Indeed, they have spent most of their time recently denying any of their pals have been agents of MI5. Is this the payoff?”
His North Belfast colleague Alban Maginness added: “The UDA should not get its hands on a penny of public money, no matter how indirectly.”
Meanwhile, a leading UDA figure escaped jail yesterday despite being arrested while on bail.
Although the court was told that Ihab Shoukri had been found with thousands of stolen euro and US dollars, the judge said the circumstances were “unclear”.
Shoukri is also reported to have been holding meetings with the leadership of the breakaway South East Antrim UDA and he has been openly attending UDA ‘brigade’ meetings in pubs.
This is in direct contravention of the conditions of his bail which state he is not to have any contact with his co-accused or enter any licenced premises.
SDLP assembly member Alban Maginness said Shoukri had become the “Teflon Don of Northern Ireland”.
“It’s extraordinary that this man is still on bail but one does have to accept the court’s decision in this matter,” he said.
Sinn Féin assembly member Caral Ni Chuilin also said she was “amazed” by the ruling.
“I think questions have to be asked here about the kind of logic which allows someone like Ihab Shoukri to get out on bail,” she said.
Meanwhile, the so-called UDA ‘brigadier’ in South East Antrim - Gary Fisher - has expelled from the group today, along with his political advisor Tommy Kirkham.
Just recently Kirkham asked the British government for 8.5 million pounds to try and disband the UDA gang.
In a statement issued today the UDA said the men had been thrown out after “lengthy discussions”.
The South East Antrim brigade in recent times has backed the Shoukri brothers and their allies who were driven out of north Belfast.
It is believed there are more than 1,000 men attached to the UDA’s South East Antrim brigade.