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DUP slams Sinn Fein claim it 'plays footsie with UDA'

By Jonathan Bell

The DUP has hit back at Sinn Fein's John O'Dowd after he claimed the party "played footsie" with the UDA.

Upper Bann MLA O'Dowd made the claim on the BBC Stephen Nolan Radio Ulster show on Monday morning.

Asked about Sinn Fein's red lines in terms of returning to government, the former education minister reiterated his party's stance that it would not go into government with Arlene Foster as first minister as long as the inquiry into the Renewable Heating Incentive scheme was ongoing.

He said if she were to take up the office while the inquiry was carrying out its work then it would "not be stable for government".

Broadcaster Stephen Nolan reminded the MLA of the PSNI's assessment that the IRA Army council was involved in overseeing Sinn Fein's strategy in the wake of the 2015 Kevin McGuigan murder in Belfast. And despite this the DUP did not bring down the government.

Referring to the fatal shooting of Colin Horner in Bangor, believed to be linked to a loyalist feud, Mr O'Dowd said: "There was a murder last night and it wasn't carried out by the IRA. It was carried out by the Ulster Defence Association who the DUP are playing footsie with under the table on a daily basis.

"They may well deny it, but it is well recorded that the DUP are playing footsie with the UDA. We all have challenges in our society that we need to live up to."

A DUP spokesman said: "The DUP condemns all terrorism. There can be no place for any paramilitary organisation in our society and anyone involved in illegal activity must face the full weight of the law.

"This stance is in sharp contrast with John O'Dowd's justification of the Provisional IRA bombing Manchester. Attempts by Sinn Fein to distract from their hypocrisy will fool no one."

Last year there was outrage after then First Minister Arlene Foster posed alongside Dee Stitt, chief executive of ex-prisoners' organisation Charter NI who has in the past bragged of his involvement in the UDA. Although he says his paramilitary history is now in his past.

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