Politicians warn of 'anarchy on streets' as UDA erects recruitment posters across Coleraine
Loyalist paramilitaries are attempting to recruit 'volunteers' to carry out punishment attacks in north Antrim, sparking warnings of "anarchy on the streets".
Propaganda posters calling for volunteers to "rid the community of drug dealers, housebreakers and paedophiles" have been erected across Coleraine by the UDA.
Pressure is mounting on the PSNI to crack down on the terror gang, which has been blamed for a series of attacks in recent months, including the murder of Brian McIlhagga in January.
North Antrim SDLP MLA John Dallat warned of "dangerous times" and claimed anarchy was "just around the corner". "These are dangerous people, as we have seen in recent months," he said.
"It is very disturbing that they are so publicly trying to recruit. The PSNI say they have the resources to deal with this, but I am not so confident. They need to tackle this robustly before it gets further out of control. These dangerous people are intimidating local communities.
"History must not be allowed to repeat itself. Both the British and Irish Governments need to be aware that the principles and aspirations of the Good Friday Agreement are being flouted by an illegal organisation, which, far from hiding in fear of prosecution, is now openly putting up posters looking for 'volunteers'."
Mr Dallat added that the campaign showed "a flagrant disregard for the rule of law".
"It is a disappointing reality for many that this latest offence will not come as a surprise," he said.
Coleraine UUP councillor William McCandless said the posters, which have been put up in the Millburn, Harpurs Hill and Ballysally areas of the town, were an attempt to intimidate people and raise tensions.
"This is a very concerning development," he said.
"We can't have self-styled paramilitary groups taking the law into their own hands. I want reassurances from the police that action is going to be taken to address this."
PSNI Chief Inspector Catherine Magee said that officers were working to establish the origin of the posters and those responsible for putting them up.
She added: "Vigilante groups and gangs do not deliver for victims of crime and they do not deliver for communities. Experience has shown that these groups are often motivated by self-interest and self-promotion.
"Communities are best served by police working closely with truly representative groups on the ground."
The UDA in north Antrim has become more active in recent months. In March a man in his twenties was shot in the arms and legs by masked UDA thugs at his house in Coleraine. A man in his 40s was also shot at a house on the Finvoy Road, outside Ballymoney. A man in his thirties was shot on the Dunluce Road in Bushmills. And a 45-year-old man was attacked at a house in Carnany Drive in Ballymoney.
In January the terror group abducted a man they were extorting in Portrush and attacked him. They also kneecapped and exiled a 15-year-old boy, and tried to kill a west Belfast man in a gun attack in the St James Park area of Ballymoney.
UDA members have also been blamed for the murder of father-of-five Mr McIlhagga, who was shot in January.