The East Belfast Assembly member stated: “This is a quite disgraceful development by the Ulster Unionist leadership, which will have shocked many of its own members and representatives. The party is now directly and indisputably linked to a paramilitary organisation which is not on ceasefire, and which is described by the IMC as a ‘greater threat than the IRA’.
“Many ordinary people in the Ulster Unionist Party will be ashamed that their party prepared to engage in political expediency with apologists for an organisation which continues to cause violence and mayhem within communities in East Belfast and elsewhere. Young people here and across Northern Ireland continue to be dragged into a life of drugs and gangsterism by people to which the Ulster Unionist Party is now directly linked — fact. Is that the future ‘decent people’ want?
“First there was the link to the Ulster Political Research Group, then there was blaming the police for Loyalist rioting, and now we have the ultimate – a direct link to live paramilitarism. The Ulster Unionist Party must now be seen as the political representatives of active and armed loyalist paramilitary groups. Is that what ‘decent people’ do?
“Engaging people to try to move them on from paramilitarism is one thing — involving them directly within your team is quite another. This is the party which brought the last Assembly down over allegations of spying by paramilitaries linked to Sinn Fein but which is now happy to allow those linked to other paramilitaries to join their group. This is rampant sectarian hypocrisy of the worst kind. Is that what ‘decent people’ support?
“I would call on the many Ulster Unionist supporters, members and representatives who are serious about supporting law-and-order to consider carefully their continued support and membership of their party.
“Alliance, meanwhile, will continue to stand steadfastly for democracy, law-and-order and a future where our young people grow up free of the scourge of paramilitarism.”