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UDA boss Dee Stitt's charity given £900,000 to build sports facility in Bangor

Bangor residents’ anger over public cash windfall for community project linked to terror gang boss

By Ciaran Barnes

Published 08/03/2016

Dee Stitt
Dee Stitt
Dee Stitt, Secretary of State Theresa Villiers and Jimmy Birch

A charity headed up by notorious UDA boss and convicted armed robber Dee Stitt is set to benefit from £900,000 of government money to build a new sports facility in Bangor.

This is despite the terror gang in the town being behind a campaign of violence and intimidation that has resulted in community workers beaten up, kids threatened and illegal bonfires built and set ablaze.

Self-confessed north Down UDA leader Stitt is a senior member of the Kilcooley Sports Forum, which will reap the rewards of £900,000 of public cash to build a 3G sports pitch in the loyalist estate. There’s no suggestion anyone else on the Forum is UDA linked.

The handout is coming from the Social Investment Fund (SIF) and the Department for Social Development (DSD). It was recommended to ministers by the eight-member SIF South Eastern Steering Group on which convicted terrorist Stitt sits along with Aidy Bird, a UDA boss in Lisburn.

The funding has also been endorsed by DUP North Down MLA Alex Easton who has admitted “working closely” with the Kilcooley Sports Forum, but who had told Sunday Life he did not know that Stitt is a UDA boss.

Bangor residents are horrified that politicians would allow any organisation connected to convicted armed robber and UDA gunman Stitt to benefit from almost £1 million of taxpayers’ money.

BEATEN

One local community figure said: “I wouldn’t trust Dee Stitt with £1, never mind £900,000.”

In the past year the north Down UDA has waged a campaign of intimidation that has resulted in toddlers being hospitalised and fathers being beaten in front of their kids.

All this has taken place under the watch of Dee Stitt – who in a 2013 BBC Radio Ulster interview confessed to being the terror gang’s leader in the area.

During the same radio programme he talked about getting close to the DUP, saying: “We’ve (the UDA) been linking into the biggest political party that’s there on the loyalist side.”

In the past 12 months the north Down UDA has:

  • plastered Bangor’s Clandeboye estate with UDA flags and dumped material for an illegal bonfire next to a children’s playground;
  • beaten up and
  • threatened community workers and teenagers in the area, warning them that the UDA was “taking over”; and
  • burnt an illegal bonfire in the Willowbrook area of Bangor, the smoke from which blew into a nearby nursery school resulting in toddlers being hospitalised.

Stitt, who is also a member of Kilcooley Community Action Group, used this position to apply for funding from Ards and North Down Borough Council for a bonfire in Clandeboye.

He further presented himself to politicians and Housing Executive officials as the man to speak to regarding the removal of UDA flags and bonfire materials in Bangor.

TRUST

Despite all of this the Kilcooley Sports Forum, which counts Stitt as a senior member, is set to benefit from £900,000 of taxpayers’ money to build a 3G sports pitch.

The huge handout, which was recommended by a steering group on which the UDA boss sits, has the full endorsement of local DUP Assemblyman Alex Easton.

When Sunday Life spoke to the politician on Thursday he said he did not know Dee Stitt was a UDA commander in north Down, and refused to comment on whether he would trust a paramilitary with public money.

All Mr Easton would say is: “All I have done is lobby for a 3G pitch on behalf of the local community.”

A spokesman for the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister, which controls Social Investment Fund (SIF) cash, said: “The total funding for the Kilcooley pitch development is £900,700 of which SIF would be contributing a maximum of £650,700. The funding will be allocated to Newry, Mourne and Down District Council.”

When the council recieves the £900,000 it will liaise with community organisations in Bangor about how to spend it, including a number of groups connected to Dee Stitt who was jailed for five years in 1993 for robbery and possessing UDA firearms.

After being freed under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement the 44-year-old became a “foot soldier” for the terror gang in north Down.

He was kneecapped by the UDA in 2001 on the orders of then east Belfast boss Jim Gray having become involved in a plot to overthrow the flamboyant loyalist. His pal Geordie Legge was murdered for his role in the coup.

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.

THREATS

Since then the shaven-headed loyalist has become 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 thousands of pounds of government grants are spent in Bangor.

Meanwhile, he leads the UDA group in north Down which is believed to be raking in massive amounts of criminal cash.

Stitt has spoken of fostering close ties to the DUP and has admitted “linking into” the party in media interviews.

He is also a regular face at Stormont where he is often seen in the company of DUP politicians.

This relationship continued even after Stitt was behind death threats against a Belfast journalist which were condemned by human rights groups.

The loyalist – who was tasked with rounding up UDA weapons for decommissioning in 2010 – was previously accused by a former senior east Belfast UDA member of stealing handguns from the stockpile for his group’s use.

However, in a radio interview in 2013, Stitt told the BBC: “All the guns under our control are gone.”

cbarnes@sundaylife.co.uk

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