UDA funding restored
UDA funding restored

The High Court in Belfast has ruled that a decision to withhold state funding for a UDA-related group over that organisation’s refusal to decommission its weaponry was “illegal”.

Mr Justice Morgan said that Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie of the nationalist SDLP had failed to follow agreed procedures by not seeking the support of the North’s unionist-dominated Executive in making the decision.

It is understood that millions of pounds has now been funneled to the UDA’s “Conflict Transformation Initiative” through the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister.

However, even despite the vast sums already awarded to loyalist-backed “community organisations”, UDA criminality continues and the weapons remain in their secret arsenals.

The SDLP’s justice spokesman, Alban Maginness, hit out at the decision to further fund UDA projects while the organisation still retained its weaponry.

“It is a disgrace that the DUP and Sinn Féin are ready to throw more public money at ex-prisoners while they have not found a single penny for their victims,” he said.

Sinn Féin Assembly member John O’Dowd branding the entire process as “an exercise of political posturing and headline chasing”.

“The Ministers response to the ruling, that she would do the same again, is arrogant and highlights that she has not learnt from her mistakes,” he said.

“Sinn Féin made clear at the time that it was a fundamental mistake to link money for loyalist communities to the behaviour of the UDA. That remains our position. The UDA should not be given public money under any circumstances.

“Margaret Ritchie’s attempt to use money which should have been used to address social deprivation in disadvantaged areas as a bribe for the UDA means that areas of high need have been starved of the funding to address poverty and build community infrastructure.”

Last week, the Ulster Political Research Group, the UDA’s political wing, had a meeting for the first time with the head of Ireland’s Catholics, Cardinal Sean Brady.

Brady reminded the UDA-aligned delegation that the Catholic community in the north of Ireland remained “fearful and suspicious” about the guns still in loyalist hands.

They in turn claimed that “there is no going back” to conflict.

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