Belfast Telegraph

UDA chief: United unionism would deny Sinn Fein top post

A paramilitary ‘brigadier' believes a united unionism/loyalism would mean that Sinn Fein would never hold the post of First Minister at Stormont.





UDA leader Jackie McDonald made the comment as he reacted to Tom Elliott's weekend speech to the Ulster Unionist Party Conference — as “ridiculous” the absence of any reference to loyalists.

McDonald said that sends out the message: “We don't count. We are not part of it all.”

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, he said loyalist paramilitary organisations had “earned the right to have a say in the future of this country” — and he had a message for the DUP and UUP leaders.

“Peter Robinson and Tom Elliott have to appreciate the efforts that have been made in recent years by ex-combatants, ex-prisoners and ex-paramilitaries at interfaces and reaching out across the divide,” McDonald said.

“The loyalist paramilitaries are not reacting to dissident activity and are giving the PSNI a chance to deal with the threat — to prove that they are fit for purpose.

“We want unionism united,” he continued. “If unionism unites and connects with loyalism then Martin McGuinness will never be First Minister.”

But he said there was a gap between political unionism and working class loyalists/Protestants.

“When they (unionist political leaders) don't speak about us, they are telling us we don't exist,” McDonald told this newspaper.

On Tom Elliott's weekend speech, he commented: “It's disappointing that he didn't acknowledge the efforts being made by genuine loyalists who want to play a significant role in the future, and they want to join loyalism up with unionism.

“I think it was a perfect opportunity,” McDonald continued.

“The only ones paying any attention to loyalism are the Shinners (Sinn Fein).

“It's a sad fact, but true,” McDonald said.

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