Belfast Telegraph

UVF boss Winston 'Winkie' Irvine's £30million job

Terror chief is treasurer of the Woodvale Shankill Community Housing Association - a charity which has £3.7m cash in the bank.

By Ciaran Barnes

UVF boss Winkie Irvine is treasurer of a housing charity which has assets worth £30million.

Irvine has no accountancy qualifications but the leading figure in the illegal paramilitary gang has a major say in controlling the huge finances of the Woodvale Shankill Community Housing Association (WSCHA).

The housing charity is currently being investigated over claims it staged a “sham tender” process ahead of awarding lucrative building contracts to its subsidiary firm WGS construction, which also has Irvine on its board.

Sunday Life has also previously revealed how the charity has installed three large RHI wood pellet burning boilers at housing schemes in the Woodvale area.

Latest company accounts published by the WSCHA show the millions of pounds it has at its disposal, and as its board member and treasurer  Winston ‘Winkie’ Irvine has an influence on how the cash is spent.

The WSCHA owns more than 400 homes in the greater Shankill area, the majority of which are occupied by people claiming housing benefit.

According to its latest audited accounts this housing stock, land and associated buildings are worth a cool £31m and it has current assets of nearly £3.9m, including £3.7m cash in the bank, as of March 2016.

Less depreciation its land and buildings are valued at around £25m and less various other liabilities the charity is valued at around £12.7m.

Last year the WSCHA had a turnover of £2,192,236 with an operating surplus (profit) of £752,588, up more than £150,000 from its 2015 surplus, according to the report by the auditors which gave the firm’s accounting procedures a clean bill of health. Its rental income from social housing topped £1.3m while it received just shy of £285,000 in sheltered dwelling rent.

In the past 12 months it has spent some of this money on establishing four subsidiary companies into which it has pumped £330,000.

These firms are WGS Green Energy Ltd, WGS New Developments Ltd, WGS Property Enterprises Ltd, and WGS Residential Ltd.

UVF boss Winkie Irvine — the WSCHA treasurer — also sits on the board of all four WGS companies. It is these firms that are at the centre of “sham tender” claims over the awarding of maintenance contracts by the WSCHA for repair work.

The Department for Communities has confirmed it is considering issues raised about WSCHA.

A spokeswoman said: “The department has received a complaint in connection with this housing association. This complaint is being taken forward under the department’s ‘Raising Concerns’ procedures.”

The WSCHA was also criticised during an ongoing industrial tribunal which heard claims that it was “not fit for purpose, badly structured”, and “lacking managerial expertise”.

Last year the housing charity awarded its WGS subsidiary company a contract worth thousands of pounds to carry out improvement work on 47 properties around Cambrai Street and Disraeli Street.

According to evidence heard at the tribunal “this was a mistake as WGS is not fit for purpose and WSCHA failed to undertake at the proper time full risk assessments for following this procurement route”.

The tribunal has not yet heard the response of the WSCHA to claims made against it and the case will proceed later this year.

Sunday Life’s revelations about Winkie Irvine’s involvement with WSCHA has led other loyalists to ask questions about how he managed to get onto the board of the multi-million pound charity.

One UVF veteran admitted to being “stunned” when told Irvine was its treasurer and had an important role in its finances. He said: “I’d love to know what qualifications Winkie has for him to be appointed treasurer of a firm with £31m worth of assets.

“It wasn’t that long ago he was a bottle-lifter paid to clean empty pint glasses in the Liverpool club.”

Irvine is understood to be seething with Sunday Life for detailing his links to the WSCHA and growing involvement in the property trade which includes his recent purchase of a detached house in north Belfast.

Senior UVF figures hit the roof last week when this newspaper revealed the housing association had installed three huge RHI (Renewable Heating Incentive) wood-pellet boilers to power three of its sheltered apartment blocks.

Details were obtained from WSCHA planning applications.

The PUP has lambasted the DUP over its promotion of the disastrous RHI scheme.

However, this criticism has now been tempered given Irvine’s role in the WSCHA and its setting up of three wood-pellet boilers on the Woodvale Road and Cambrai Street.

Our source added: “Bunter (UVF leader John ‘Bunter’ Graham) wasn’t happy when he read about Winkie’s links to the wood-pellet boilers.

“He knew nothing about it and reckons it could weaken the PUP vote at next month’s Assembly elections.”

cbarnes@sundaylife.co.uk

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