John Boreland murder: The idea that DUP want to facilitate loyalist paramilitaries is nonsense, says Jeffrey Donaldson
DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson has hit back at claims that unionist politicians lack the courage to stand against loyalist paramilitaries.
Raymond McCord's 22-year-old son Raymond jnr was murdered by the UVF in November 1997. His killers have never been brought to justice.
Mr McCord said that the DUP have failed to do enough to tackle paramilitaries in Belfast but DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson said his comments were insulting and that he had been on an "anti-DUP vendetta for years".
Speaking to the BBC following the murder of leading UDA man John Boreland, Mr McCord said: "Politicians in north Belfast - the DUP - and across Belfast haven't the guts to stand up to paramilitaries.
"They stand with them at protests, they go to meetings with them knowing what they are.
"They are terrorists who murder people in their own community."
He added: "Condemnation is not enough, it's the watered down version as usual. People have not the courage to stand up to them.
"I want to hear - and so do a lot of people - them say 'arrest the leaders of these organisations'.
"If we want it to stop let's put the leaders away, stop their funding and put them in jail and let's see how many murders take place."
Pastor Jack McKee, who has also called for the end of paramilitary violence, said he believed his voice against loyalist violence "was a threat" to those politicians attempting to draw "paramilitaries into the circle".
DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson rejected the claims and he stressed that his party was not "elevating paramilitaries into the political sphere" but had worked with their leaderships to persuade them to "leave the stage". The UDA, the politician said, had been more cooperative at a local level than that of the UVF and that there had been no "strategic discussions" in the past two or three years.
The Lagan Valley MP, who said he has been threatened by loyalist paramilitaries in the past, also said the vast majority of communities across Northern Ireland were not living under the grip of paramilitaries.
He claimed loyalist communities in Lisburn had been "liberated" from paramilitaries who were not active, nor were protection rackets in operation in the city.
Mr Donaldson said: "Raymond McCord needs to think long and hard before he points the finger at someone like Nigel Dodds. A man who the IRA tried to assassinate.
"He has been on an anti-DUP vendetta for years, he stood against Nigel in North Belfast.
"And let's not forget Raymond McCord's son was in the UVF - his son was member of that organisation. It is terrible that his son was murdered.
"But let's be clear, the DUP is standing against paramilitaries and Nigel Dodds gives a courageous lead in north Belfast. He has on a number of occasions, not just the once, been a target for paramilitaries.
"When paramilitaries stand for elections we stand against them."
Asked about the graduated response, when the DUP joined with the Orange Order, the UPRG, and PUP, who represent the UDA and UVF, Mr Donaldson said: "That was about preventing violence on the streets, about persuading paramilitary organisation that they need to transform and move away from criminality - that's what we want them to do.
"But unfortunately, the UVF in particular have not been making that transition despite all the efforts we have made.
"This is because the UVF's price is that they would only wind up if they get an amnesty for all their crimes.
"And we will not accept that."
He added: "In some areas the UDA has transformed, but some elements continued to engage in criminality and as a result of that some people lose their lives.
"The idea that the DUP for one moment would want to facilitate or accommodate loyalist paramilitaries is a nonsense.
"We are working with communities to end the grip of paramilitarism in all communities.
He continued: "We have been calling consistently for paramilitaries to leave the stage.
"In the fresh start agreement we set up a panel to investigate how to move all of the paramilitary violence, not just loyalist, but also republican paramilitaries off the stage.
"We do not want a Northern Ireland that has paramilitaries at a community level - we are very clear about that."