Farry says Easton must clarify approach to paramilitaries

Alliance North Down MLA Stephen Farry has called on DUP MLA Alex Easton to clarify his approach to working with known paramilitaries after revelations he provided a reference to self-professed UDA member David ‘Dee’ Stitt.

Self-professed North Down UDA boss Stitt was described as “outstanding” and “highly regarded” by Mr Easton in a letter supporting the former’s application for a place on the Social Investment Fund’s South-Eastern Steering group, which decides where millions of pounds are invested.

“Alex Easton’s denials of the knowledge of Mr Stitt’s background at the time of writing this reference are not credible,” said Mr Farry.

“But even if one gives him the benefit of the doubt he was somehow naive in this regard, this begs several questions such as what due diligence did Mr Easton carry out before providing this reference, and whether he would today still provide that reference.

“Given the nature of the UDA’s ongoing activity and its impact on the community in North Down, this reference beggars belief.

“It also highlights the critical importance of a protocol on how the state and public agencies deals with the reality of legacy and ongoing paramilitary activity in many parts of Northern Ireland, in terms of how to engage productively to break down structures and how to avoid entrenching paramilitary gate-keepers.”

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