Call for end to UVF funding on anniversary of peace deal

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State bodies who are still directing cash to loyalist paramilitary groups stand accused of operating a form of collusion, 24 years after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement.

Veteran victims campaigner Raymond McCord has spoken out against those government agencies which are continue to send funds to loyalist murder gangs as part of bogus peace initiatives.

The UVF, a unionist paramilitary group which killed Mr McCord’s son and has been increasingly active recently, mounted a dramatic hoax car bomb attack two weeks ago which targeted the 26 County Minister Simon Coveney. This week it defaced several Irish language street signs in County Derry.

Mr McCord said the UVF figures linked to the Coveney bomb scare had benefited from State funds.

He told a committee of the Dublin parliament that he was passed documents giving details of State funding awarded as part of peace-building efforts to a “large group” operated by UVF “lifers” (former life-sentence prisoners).

He said the idea of “buying paramilitaries off was a failure from the start... They are still here”.

Public cash being directed to so-called community organisations needs to be made “public and accountable” as “it is being abused with providers turning a blind eye”, he said.

The campaigner said he remains under “numerous death threats” from people within his own community in Belfast because he has spoken out.

“The UVF made a bomb, tried to blow me up,” he said. “Our unionist politicians refuse to go against these people and it is time they did.”

Cathy McIlvenny, whose 23-year-old sister Lorraine McCausland was raped and murdered in 1987 by loyalist paramilitaries, said the gangs “have just as much control” as they did all through the conflict, “if not more.”

“They have a real choke-hold on the community, in working class areas. They wear the suits during the day and wear the balaclavas at night. I witness this week in and week out.”

Ms McIlvenny said the Good Friday Agreement “hasn’t done anything for working class Protestants” and has “pushed (paramilitarism) under the ground more”.

Mothers regularly pay their children’s drug debts to loyalist paramilitaries while houses and oil tanks have been set on fire for those who can not afford the money, she told the committee.

“There is still a fear of the paramilitary organisations,” she said.

Mr McCord appealed to the Dublin government to halt all funding to loyalist paramilitary-linked groups.

“They say they are doing community work - their community work is how much can we make on drugs this week, how much can we take off shops this week in extortion. These are the people who are getting funded.”

Since its ceasefire in 1994, the UVF has murdered 32 people in the unionist community, said Mr McCord. “What other country in the world would have 32 murders by groups on ceasefire and still give them funding,” he said.

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