Belfast Telegraph

Charter NI in fresh storm after officer's accusations

By Jonathan Bell

Calls are growing for funding to be stopped to east Belfast community group Charter NI after a senior PSNI officer linked some of its members to recent paramilitary activity.

PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Martin sparked a storm yesterday morning when he said he believes individuals involved with Charter NI were connected with the outlawed UDA and had engaged in recent illegal activity.

Opposition parties have urged First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness to suspend funding to Charter NI, and launch an investigation into the allegations.

UUP Mike Nesbitt said the police analysis "has to be the tipping point".

"The Assistant Chief Constable couldn't be any clearer with his assessment and the penny seems to have finally dropped with the Executive," he said.

SDLP MLA Nichola Mallon added: "The First Minister and deputy First Minister must show responsibility and provide an urgent and comprehensive response to this security assessment".

Charter NI, a charity whose chief executive is convicted armed robber Dee Stitt, is overseeing the delivery of a £1.7m employment scheme in east Belfast as part of the Stormont Executive's £80m Social Investment Fund (SIF).

Mr Stitt, who denies being a UDA chief, has faced down repeated calls for his resignation in the wake of a newspaper interview in which he launched a foul-mouthed tirade against the Government and claimed his flute band, the North Down Defenders, provided "homeland security".

The Executive Office described Mr Martin's remarks as "not insignificant" and said there would be no acceptance of illegal actions.

A spokesman also said they were seeking further clarity from the police.

"Where there is evidence of criminal activity, we expect the police to investigate and bring those responsible before the courts... there can be no acceptance of, or ambivalence towards, illegal activity", a statement said.

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