Belfast Telegraph

Community 'crying out for action' against UVF says DUP MP

The bonfire in the grounds of Avoniel Leisure Centre
The bonfire in the grounds of Avoniel Leisure Centre

A DUP MP has called on Chief Constable Simon Byrne to back up his vow to take action against the UVF.

East Belfast MP Gavin Robinson said that the local community "were crying out for action" against the paramilitary group because of the damage they were causing to the community.

He was speaking after the recently-installed Mr Byrne said police would "not tolerate" the organisation.

"We will take (them) on using all the powers at our disposal, we've got things like the Paramilitary Crime Task Force as well as other agencies who we work with to take on terrorism and criminality," he said.

The Chief Constable made the comments while briefing the media on the situation at the Avoniel Leisure Centre bonfire last week

It went ahead after councillors were told that the East Belfast UVF had threatened violence if the bonfire material was removed.

DUP MP Gavin Robinson said that the community was willing to work with police against the organisation.

"I represent a community that deals with the outworkings of paramilitaries, the consequences of paramilitaries and the damage that they bring to our community," he told the BBC.

"I think it's encouraging to hear what the Chief Constable has had to say, I think everyone in Northern Ireland is prepared to give him a fair wind as a new Chief Constable, but the community want action.

"We've long heard moves from police that they are going to crack down, that they are going to suppress, going to challenge, we need to see it.

DUP MP Gavin Robinson (Brian Lawless/PA)
DUP MP Gavin Robinson (Brian Lawless/PA)

"We're going to judge not just the words that they say, but also the actions that police take."

Mr Robinson called on police to address the issue quickly.

"We have a community that are crying out for action, a community that has engaged with and had confidence in the Paramilitary Crime Task Force for example, but the longer it goes on and the less action we see, the less tangible results are brought forward in the community, questions are then raised and confidence wanes," the East Belfast MP said.

"We will give the Chief Constable a fair wind, but we need to see that action."

The East Belfast Cultural Collective represents bonfire builders in the greater Belfast area and they described the Chief Constable's comments as "ludicrous".

A spokesperson said that loyalists had used positive influence in the area and accused Belfast City Council and the PSNI of being "outmaneuvered by bouncy castles".

Contractors engaged by Belfast City Council to remove bonfire-material from the council owned Avoniel site ahead of the Eleventh Night withdrew last week after threats appeared on graffiti near the leisure centre.

Last Wednesday Belfast City Council heard a warning from police that guns could be used during severe violence orchestrated by loyalist paramilitaries if the bonfire material was removed.

Council were warned that intelligence indicated "that any attempt by the council to remove bonfire material will cause a severe violent confrontation, orchestrated by the UVF".


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