Argos accused of glorifying terror gangs by helping to distribute T-shirts emblazoned with UDA/UFF and UVF slogans
High street chain Argos has been accused of glorifying terrorism by helping to distribute loyalist paramilitary T-shirts.
Argos was the agreed collection point for eBay orders of T-shirts emblazoned with UDA/UFF and UVF slogans, although the retailer said it has "no control" over the sale of the items.
The T-shirts were immediately removed from eBay's marketplace yesterday after concerns were raised by the Belfast Telegraph. eBay said it does not allow the sale "of items promoting or commemorating hatred and violence".
A spokesman for Argos said: "eBay is the seller and therefore we have no control over the sale of this item."
He said Argos immediately passed the issue over to eBay who promptly removed the products from the site.
The spokesman said Argos "have no intention to cause offence or ‘glorify terrorism’".
One of the offending T-shirts featured a red clenched fist surrounded by barbed wire, along with the slogan: "Simply the best, UFF/UDA POW, their only crime loyalty."
Similar shirts were often worn by former loyalist terror boss Johnny 'Mad Dog' Adair and his supporters.
In 2000 Adair, 50 supporters and his Alsatian dog sported identical Ulster Freedom Fighters T-shirts bearing the slogan "Simply the Best" at a terrorist show of strength, at which shots were fired to demonstrate "support for the Orangemen at Drumcree".
Another T-shirt from the same eBay seller was emblazoned with "Ulster Volunteer Force, UVF, For God and Ulster, Long Kesh Battalion."
Until yesterday afternoon the clothing was being sold on eBay for £14.99 and, once purchased, could be collected at Argos stores throughout Northern Ireland.
Revelations of Argos' role in the distribution of the paramilitary T-shirts left victims of UDA/UFF violence "hurt and outraged", a victims' group said.
Innocent Victims United (IVU) accused Argos of being complicit in the glorification of terrorism. The UDA/UFF was responsible for more than 400 deaths. One of the UFF's worst acts of violence was on Halloween in 1993 when gunmen walked into the Rising Sun bar in Greysteel and shouted "Trick or treat?" before opening fire, killing six men and two women.
Other high-profile attacks include the Milltown massacre in March 1988, the Sean Graham bookmakers' shooting in 1992 and the Castlerock killings. The UVF was responsible for more than 500 deaths. During the Troubles its deadliest attack was the 1971 McGurk's Bar bombing, which killed 15 civilians. The group also carried out attacks in the Republic. The biggest of these was the 1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombings, which killed 34.
Kenny Donaldson of Innocent Victims United said: "We oppose terrorism glorification and terrorism idolatry in all its forms and we view this action by Argos as being complicit with this.
"Within our membership are innocent victims of UFF/UDA terrorism and having spoken to a number about this matter they are rightly hurt and outraged by what is happening. We call on Argos to think beyond the pound signs - cease to act as a collection point with immediate effect".
Mr Donaldson said that "terrorism idolatry is a disease within our society which runs across many aspects of our political, cultural and civic lives".
He said: "Statutory agencies, through their refusal to face up to the problem, are equally complicit, whether that's a refusal to remove illegal terror memorials, illegal terrorist flags, the naming of children's play parks and other amenities after convicted terrorists, the public funding of organisations who promote terrorism glorification and terrorism idolatry - the list goes on. Once again we have a situation where victims are everyone's last concern. They should be everyone's first concern."
The Belfast Telegraph raised concerns with Argos over its role in the distribution of these T-shirts. The chain immediately contacted eBay who removed the T-shirts from its marketplace.
An eBay spokesman said: "eBay does not allow the sale of items promoting or commemorating hatred and violence. Items may not be permitted if they contravene this.
"eBay has over 800 million items for sale and in addition to our own efforts, reports from our community help to keep eBay free of listings of concern, which can be reported directly from the site. We conduct regular reviews of the eBay site to find offensive materials and remove them as soon as they are identified.
"Anyone found to be knowingly selling items of this kind will be investigated and face action including account restrictions or suspension."