Questions raised over Government’s meeting with loyalist paramilitaries

As the Secretary of State prepares to meet representatives of the UPRG, Alliance Leader David Ford has called on him to put pressure on them to ensure that loyalist paramilitary violence is ended.

David Ford said: “On a number of occasions in the past, Government representatives have spent time in meetings with Loyalist paramilitaries. Now the Secretary of State is preparing to meet with the UPRG, which is just a flag of convenience for the UDA.

“There is little reason to believe that past meetings with Loyalist groups have achieved anything: sometimes they have reinforced the position of paramilitary groups.

“Loyalist groups continue to be responsible for violence across Northern Ireland. Violence directed against Catholics, against people from ethnic minorities, against small businesses, against anyone who gets in their way.

“Many people will wonder how Ministers have time to meet the UDA, when there have been very few meetings with democratic parties since Leeds castle. They will also wonder what the purpose of such a meeting is.

“There can be no question of negotiations with paramilitaries. If the Secretary of State is to meet them, he should simply make clear that the Police Service and the Assets Recovery Agency will pursue them relentlessly and that he will take any action needed as a result of reports from the Independent Monitoring Commission.”

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