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DUP man hails UDA gunman as 'outstanding' in leaked letter

MLA Alex Easton didn’t  know Stitt was a gangster

Published 07/06/2016

David Stitt, former UDA member.
David Stitt, former UDA member.
Dee Stitt, former Secretary of State Theresa Villiers, East Belfast UDA leader Jimmy Birch
Alex Easton, DUP after being successful on the first count for North Down for the Assembly Elections at the Aurora Leisure Centre, Bangor.

A self-confessed UDA boss was described as “outstanding” by a DUP politician in a letter to senior civil servants.

North Down MLA Alex Easton’s gushing praise for David ‘Dee’ Stitt was contained in a reference that accompanied the convicted terrorist gunman’s application for a position on the Social Investment Fund’s (SIF) South-Eastern Steering Group.

The loyalist got the job on the powerful funding body and has since recommended that it gives the Kilcooley Sports Forum – of which he is a senior member – £900,000 of public cash to spend on a 3G football pitch.

Well-placed sources told Sunday Life that Alex Easton’s reference was “key” to Stitt winning a seat on the eight-strong SIF steering group quango.

They also expressed astonishment that a DUP politician would be so unreserved in his praise for a convicted paramilitary given the party’s tough stance on terrorism.

Granting Stitt his seal of approval Mr Easton wrote in the 2012 reference, published here today: “I believe that David would be an outstanding member of the steering group if selected.”

The Assemblyman also talked about how Stitt commanded “widespread support across the community” and was “very good at community dialogue”.

When Sunday Life challenged Mr Easton about his links to Dee Stitt earlier this year he said he did not know he was a paramilitary.

This was despite the terror chief admitting he was the UDA’s Bangor boss in a previous radio interview and being named as such in dozens of newspaper articles.

Quizzed again about how well he knows Stitt, given that he was prepared to write him a character reference, Mr Easton told this newspaper via a spokesman:

Alex Easton, DUP after being successful on the first count for North Down for the Assembly Elections at the Aurora Leisure Centre, Bangor.
Alex Easton, DUP after being successful on the first count for North Down for the Assembly Elections at the Aurora Leisure Centre, Bangor.
David Stitt, former UDA member.
Dee Stitt, former Secretary of State Theresa Villiers, East Belfast UDA leader Jimmy Birch

“Building on commitments made in the Fresh Start Agreement, the DUP works with community representatives, including those with Trouble-related backgrounds, to move Northern Ireland forward.

“The DUP does not support paramilitary activity and criminality of any kind. Mr Easton and the DUP would urge anyone with information about criminality to immediately report it to the PSNI.”

Dee Stitt’s Bangor UDA is considered by police to be one of the most out of control paramilitary gangs in Northern Ireland.

In the past year alone its members have:

  •  Seriously assaulted popular community worker Aaron McMahon for opposing an illegal bonfire;
  •  Attacked a man with mental problems after wrongly accusing him of dealing drugs and not handing over protection money;
  •  Burnt an illegal bonfire in the Willowbrook area, which led to smoke blowing into a nursery school kids having to be hospitalised;
  •  Plastered the Clandeboye estate in UDA flags and dumped illegal bonfire material next to a children’s playground;

This is on top of Stitt’s UDA mob threatening members of the media and demanding the Housing Executive fund an Eleventh night beacon in a suburban part of Bangor against local wishes.

It was during a radio interview in 2013 that the shaven-headed loyalist admitted being leader of the UDA in the north Down area.

During the same programme the 44-year-old also admitted getting close to the DUP, saying: “We’ve [the UDA] been linking into the biggest political party that’s there on the loyalist side.”

Stitt, who was tasked with storing UDA weapons prior to them being decommissioned in 2010, was jailed in 1993 for five years for robbery and possessing firearms.

After his release from prison he was kneecapped by the UDA on the orders of then east Belfast boss Jim Gray having become involved in a secret plot to overthrow the flamboyant Belfast loyalist.

In 2005 Gray was stood down and then shot dead by the UDA, and Jimmy Birch installed as its new leader. He immediately appointed his old school friend Stitt as commander in north Down.

Since then Stitt has been heavily involved in community projects and counts among his interests: Charter NI, of which he is Chief Executive; Kilcooley Sports Forum; Kilcooley Community Action Group; Kilcooley Community Forum; Kilcooley Neighbourhood Partnership and Social Investment Fund South Eastern Steering Group.

Stitt earns in excess of £30,000 per year from legitimate posts which give him a huge say on how millions of pounds of government grants are spent.

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