The vastly different approach of the British Crown Forces to loyalist paramilitaries vis-a-vis republican armed groups has been condemned by the Alliance Party.
It comes after a warning from a senior loyalist figure that paramilitaries will “wreck the place” and “the streets will be in flames” if any Brexit deal between Britain and EU does not scrap the ‘Irish Sea border’. It is the latest in a series of wild threats by UDA and UVF gangs who are represented by a quasi-umbrella group, the Loyalist Communities Council.
“The warnings from David Campbell (LCC chairman) should have been heeded,” a loyalist source was reported as saying to the Sunday Life newspaper.
“His efforts to keep a lid on things are running out of road. Loyalists are now being mobilised, and rather than the 25th anniversary of the Belfast Agreement being a celebration, the streets will be in flames.
“Loyalists will wreck the place. It is very easy to take the hand off the wheel and just allow the men off the leash.”
The threat of violence was condemned by the Ulster Unionist Party Doug Beattie who called the comments “pathetic”.
Alliance Assembly member Sorcha Eastwood said it is “past time active loyalist paramilitary groups are treated the same as dissident republican groups” by London.
“We are in 2023. There is absolutely no excuse for that group, or any loyalist terror groups to exist whatsoever. They offer nothing but hatred, bigotry, violence and death, while trying to drag us back to the bad days.
“Now we have the UVF threatening violence around the Protocol. This stands in contrast to previous claims by the Independent Reporting Commission regarding loyalists transitioning away from violence.”
The Alliance MLA, who has been subjected to personalised harassment by loyalists in recent months following her objection to a controversial Orange Order parade, said the approach of the state to such organisations needs to change.
“The UK Government can no longer continue with its current approach to loyalist paramilitaries – that their activities are simply criminality,” she continued.
“In addition, organisations such as the Loyalist Communities Council, which normalises the activity of the UVF and others, needs to leave the stage, instead of giving credibility to these terrorist thugs.”
People Before Profit Assembly member Gerry Carroll urged unionist DUP politicians to now reject the loyalist gang leaders it had previously described as “stakeholders”.
“We know that the DUP has consulted loyalist paramilitaries over the Protocol in the past, but people should not be held to ransom by sectarian gangs or fringe loyalist figures,” he said.
“I would reiterate calls for the DUP to sever all ties with groups like the LCC... this whole Protocol debacle has been a case of the tail wagging the dog.”