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DUP MLA Trevor Clarke defiant over meeting with loyalist paramilitaries


Trevor Clarke MLA

Trevor Clarke MLA

Trevor Clarke MLA

A DUP MLA who has been reported to the Assembly's Standards Commissioner by a Sinn Fein politician for engaging with a loyalist paramilitary group to resolve a flags issue has insisted the move "smacks of double standards".

Trevor Clarke defended his disclosure after Sinn Fein MLA Liz Kimmins branded it "very concerning" that he had spoken publicly about working with a loyalist paramilitary group.

Mr Clarke spoke of his engagement with loyalists during an Assembly debate on a proposal tabled by Alliance calling for leadership on issues around flags, identity and culture.

Highlighting community leadership, the South Antrim assembly member said: "In my area, I worked with a loyalist paramilitary organisation to remove its flags and to put up more respectful Union Jacks for the marching season.

"It was welcomed by those who lived in the community and did not want to see signs of paramilitarism but were content for the flag of our country to fly for the marching season.

"It is examples like that that show leadership."

Ms Kimmins said Mr Clarke's comments were "extremely shocking" and she had referred the matter to the Standards Commissioner, the PSNI and Policing Board.

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"This is shocking given that armed loyalist criminal gangs are still actively involved in a litany of crimes including murder, drug dealing, racketeering, intimidation and ongoing threats against journalists, public representatives and other workers," she said.

Ms Kimmins said his remarks had come after DUP leader Arlene Foster and other party representatives had met with the Loyalist Communities Council, which has since withdrawn its support for the Good Friday Agreement amid the Irish Sea border row.

"The DUP should be working to end loyalist paramilitarism, not working with them," added Ms Kimmins.

Mr Clarke last night hit back at the Newry and Armagh MLA's comments, saying his engagement with the loyalist group was a number of years ago, insisting that Ms Kimmins should instead focus on her own party.

"Given Sinn Fein's own links to republicanism this smacks of double standards," he insisted.

"I make no apology for the opportunity to work with loyalist or republican groups to remove paramilitary flags for the betterment of all our communities going forward."

The Standards Commissioner could not be reached for comment last night.

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