Alliance calls for paramilitary disbandment

Alliance MLA David Ford has said the Red Hand Commando’s move to be legalised instead of disbanded could have serious implications for ending the scourge of paramilitarism in Northern Ireland.

The former Justice Minister said that while any move to end intimidation should not be snubbed, there was no evidence that this would actually happen if the group was granted legal status by the Home Office.

David Ford MLA said: “While there are many questions that need answered, a key issue is why they are now seeking to be de-proscribed, rather than disbanding, especially as a number of other loyalist groups remain in place. Described as a test case within loyalist circles, the concern is how this could hinder our progress in ending paramilitarism in Northern Ireland, with groups like these using legal channels to continue exerting control over their communities.

“In Northern Ireland the lack of a functioning Executive has left far too many people living with the reality of paramilitary control, including from the Red Hand Commando, as evidenced by flags and other symbols. With many afraid to speak out for fear of repercussions, we must rectify this.

“Alliance has consistently called for a proper strategy to tackle paramilitaries, based on breaking down the structures that exist, not facilitating ongoing community control and organised crime under a veneer of respectability.

“While we process this news today, we must also remember the victims and survivors of attacks carried out by the Red Hand Commando and other paramilitary groups. As it stands we don’t know how serious the Home Office will be taking this, but Alliance will be writing to the Home Secretary and Secretary of State to seek clarification on this approach and how this application – and future ones – will be considered.”

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