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'Racketeer was on way to meeting with police'

By Noel McAdam

Published 28/11/2016

A man collecting 'protection money' in east Belfast was on his way to a police liaison committee meeting, the TUV conference heard.

Party leader Jim Allister said he believed the story he had been told of a man demanding money from an unnamed organisation in an east Belfast estate was true.

"A certain gentleman calls every week for the security payment," he said. "And recently he called one day wearing a suit and tie. And they've got so familiar with him that they said to him in the office, 'You're well dressed up today.'

"'Oh aye', he said, 'I'm going to a police liaison committee this afternoon'."

Councillor Andrew Girvan also claimed the Executive's Social Investment Fund had allowed paramilitary groups to tighten their grip on local communities.

He hit out at First Minister Arlene Foster for being photographed with the controversial chief executive of the Charter 21 group, UDA leader Dee Stitt.

"I want to see the hold of paramilitaries broken. But we currently have a First Minister who happily hands money to organisations which seem to be little more than a front for them," he said.

"As someone who grew up in east Belfast in a working class area I know the grip that paramilitaries can have on an area.

"It sickens me that that grip is being tightened by way of the Social Investment Fund."

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