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Loyalist terrorists threaten Northern Ireland politicians after UDA journalist warnings

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A UDA mural in the Glenfada area of Carrickfergus. Pic Pacemaker

A UDA mural in the Glenfada area of Carrickfergus. Pic Pacemaker

A UDA mural in the Glenfada area of Carrickfergus. Pic Pacemaker

Northern Ireland politicians have been threatened by loyalist paramilitaries.

Police contacted UUP leader Steve Aiken, his party colleague the Upper Bann MLA Doug Beattie, the SDLP MLA Patsy McGlone and Alliance MP Stephen Farry warning of a "credible threat" from loyalists.

On Monday evening, Sinn Fein confirmed that MLA Linda Dillon has been informed by police of threats. It comes after she condemned the threats against her colleagues and the press.

There was widespread disgust on Monday morning as news of the threats spread on social media.

Amnesty international described them as an "attack on democracy".

It comes after the politicians - along with many others - spoke out against threats made to Sunday Life and Sunday World journalists.

Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly said: “Police have made my party colleague Linda Dillon aware of a threat against her by loyalists tonight.

“This comes on the back of a number of threats to journalists and now despicable threats issued against an expanding list of elected representatives for defending the freedom of the press.

“Linda Dillon is committed to serving and representing all the people of Mid Ulster and will not be deterred by threats from anyone and neither will any Sinn Féin elected representative.

“Everyone should be free to carry out their business free from threats, fear or intimidation and that includes elected representatives and journalists.

"The criminal gangs responsible for these threats should immediately withdraw them.

“Anyone with any information on the people involved should bring it forward to the PSNI, who must do all in their power to bring those responsible before the courts.”

Former soldier Doug Beattie said he had been threatened many times while serving in uniform.

"I treated those threats with contempt, as I do with this present threat," he said.

"What does concern me is that criminal gangs should feel confident enough to threaten journalists and politicians, and this is a testament to just how little they fear the criminal justice system in this country. This is simply not acceptable in a western European democracy in the 21st Century.

“The vast majority of people in Northern Ireland simply want to get on with their lives. They deserve the chance to do that free from gangsters and criminals.

"Local communities, plagued by these gangs who attempt to drain them of their dignity and hard earned money, need the police to round up these bullies and put them away for as long as possible.

"There should be no more talk of strategies and inducements; quite simply, these criminal gangs need to be closed down once and for all with sentences that act as a real deterrent.”

Twenty years on from the Belfast Agreement there is no such thing as a paramilitary group left in NI, there are only organised crime gangs who exist to make money for their mafia bosses, generally by selling drugs. Steve Aiken

UUP leader Steve Aiken added: "Having served in the Royal Navy for 30 years and in many operational environments, it is somewhat ironic to return home to Northern Ireland and be threatened by so-called ‘loyalists’.

“Twenty years on from the Belfast Agreement there is no such thing as a paramilitary group left in Northern Ireland, there are only organised crime gangs who exist to make money for their mafia bosses, generally by selling drugs.

“The Secretary of State and the Chief Constable need to make it very clear – by words and deeds – that this type of threat will not be tolerated in any part of the United Kingdom, and that the people responsible will be on the receiving end of swift and decisive action.

"These threats are not normal and they should not be treated as if they are. Threats against politicians and journalists by crime gangs are nothing less than fascism – it wouldn’t be tolerated in Glasgow, Manchester or London, and it shouldn’t be tolerated here.”

Mr McGlone, Deputy Speaker at the Assembly, said he refused to be intimidated and neither he, nor those journalists to be threatened, will be silenced or censored.

“This is not the first time I’ve been threatened by paramilitaries but I can assure those responsible, I will not be silenced, censored or intimidated by faceless thugs," he said.

"In the week of VE commemorations, it is ironic and deeply sinister that they have chosen to mimic fascist attacks on journalists and elected representatives.

“This threat, and the threats made against journalists in the last week, are an attack on the democratic tradition on this island. It must be resisted and those responsible must understand that they will never win."

It is ironic and deeply sinister that they have chosen to mimic fascist attacks on journalists and elected representatives. Patsy McGlone

SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood MP added: "Those responsible for this threat obviously don’t know Patsy McGlone. He will not be broken or silenced by those intent on intimidating him and others.

“These thugs need to understand that every threat against an elected representative or a journalist or anyone else is an attack on our peace and an attack on the democratic will of the people of this island. It is a fight they will never win.

“The threats made against Patsy and a number of journalists in the last week should be lifted immediately. Everyone on this island should be able to live and work free from the threat of violence.”

The people behind these kinds of faceless threats have nothing to offer our society. Linda Dillon

Ms Dillon, speaking before being informed of threats against her, said: "I condemn these despicable threats against a number of local elected representatives by loyalist paramilitaries and extend my solidarity.

“This is the latest in a number of threats issued against journalists and elected representatives by criminal gangs.

“Politicians, like everyone, should be free to do their work and represent their constituents free from threats, fear or intimidation.

“The people behind these kinds of faceless threats have nothing to offer our society.

“Anyone with any information on the people behind these threats should bring it forward to the PSNI who must take action to remove these gangs from our streets.”

Police said they did not discuss the security of individuals.

"No inference should be drawn from this. However, if we receive information that a person’s life may be at risk we will inform them accordingly. We never ignore anything which may put an individual at risk," the organisation said in a statement.

At the end of last week human rights organisations and politicians right across Northern Ireland called for the warnings issued by the South East Antrim UDA to the Sunday Life and Sunday World newspapers to be lifted.

The Sunday Life and Sunday World journalists were targeted because of exposés in both titles about UDA involvement in criminality, drug dealing and involvement in the January murder of terminally ill Glen Quinn in Carrickfergus. Police visited the journalists' homes during the early hours of Friday morning, with one being told of a potential under-car booby-trap attack.

Peter Vandermeersch, publisher at Independent News and Media which owns the titles, said "threats against journalists should not be tolerated in any free society".

"It is depressing that thugs still believe they can silence the press through intimidation. We will continue to publish stories that shed light in dark corners," he added.

The South East Antrim UDA controls turf stretching 20 miles from Larne to north Belfast, along with pockets of Newtownards. It is considered one of Northern Ireland's most dangerous organised crime gangs.

Ulster Unionist leader Steve Aiken described the threats to journalists as "simply inexcusable".

"Whatever your opinion of individuals are, a free and unfettered press is a mark of democracy. The PSNI must investigate and bring the perpetrators to justice," he added.

His Upper Bann MLA party colleague Doug Beattie, a former Army captain who won the Military Cross medal for valour, condemned the threats as "fascism at its finest, with beer-bellied thugs directing spotty faced kids".

Patsy McGlone added his voice to the condemnation, saying: "Solidarity with journalists at Sunday Life and Sunday World threatened by thuggish fascists. Threats to a free press are threats to democracy."

Amnesty International described the threats against the journalists as "disgusting".

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