Belfast Telegraph

Paramilitaries involved in street disturbances must face full rigour of the law, says Villiers

By Tom Moseley

The involvement of loyalist paramilitaries in the flag riots is a “grave concern”, the Westminster Government said yesterday.

Secretary of State Theresa Villiers said she had passed on a list of names of UVF members to the PSNI and Justice Minister David Ford.

Ms Villiers, who was addressing MPs in an urgent statement at Westminster, urged Northern Ireland’s political parties to make a “bold move” to bring about peace.

Labour Party spokesman Vernon Coaker said the paramilitary involvement meant the trouble had become an issue of national security, raising concerns about the impact on PSNI budgets.

Ms Villiers said calls for extra resources to handle the forthcoming G8 summit in Fermanagh were “under consideration”.

She told MPs: “It is of concern that individual loyalist paramilitaries are involved in these matters, and crucial that the police do all they can to ensure the full rigour of the law is brought to bear on anyone engaging in violent conflicts, whether or not they are members of paramilitary organisations.”

Chief Constable Matt Baggott believed the UVF leadership was not “orchestrating” the trouble, she added.

The minister later added: “It remains a grave concern that individual members of the UVF are involved in the violence — I discussed that with the Chief Constable and the Justice Minister yesterday. Indeed, I passed on some names that had been provided to me on the matter.”

Former Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain urged the Government to talk to people “on the fringes of the violence” and stressed the need to tackle the “deplorable” levels of youth unemployment.

He added: “They have got no stake in society. That doesn’t justify the violence, but it does explain why it is happening.”

The DUP’s Jeffrey Donaldson called for “more than condemnation”, saying he and his family had been threatened.

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