Loyalists 'still on ceasefire' despite UDA death threat
Theresa Villiers has insisted that loyalist paramilitaries "remain committed to their ceasefires," despite a community worker being forced out of Northern Ireland by the UDA.
Members of the terror group threatened to shoot the young Belfast community worker dead earlier this month unless he left the country.
According to loyalist sources, members of the UDA were unhappy that he had organised community meetings without their knowledge.
The threats came less than two weeks after members attacked a community worker with hammers in Bangor.
In light of these incidents, which occurred just weeks after the UDA denounced criminality and pledged to make a "meaningful contribution" to loyalist communities, SDLP MP Margaret Ritchie raised concern about paramilitary activity with the Secretary of State.
However, Secretary of State Ms Villiers insisted to Ms Ritchie that while "individual members of loyalist paramilitary groups continue to engage in criminality and seek to exercise community control through violence and intimidation", the overall assessment "remains that these organisations as a whole remain committed to their ceasefires".
Ms Villiers added: "I welcome the commitments contained within the Fresh Start agreement that are aimed at achieving a Northern Ireland society that is free from the malign impact of paramilitarism."
In October, the UDA joined other groups to announce their support for a new Loyalist Communities Council to "address criminality, encourage renewed confidence and widen the democratic process".
The UDA, UVF and Red Hand Commando said they were "recommitting" to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.
"We eschew all violence and criminality," they declared. "If there are those who attempt to use current or past associations with our organisations to further criminality, they will be disowned and should be aware that they will not be permitted to use the cover of loyalism."
Earlier this month, a panel was appointed to develop proposals for a strategy to disband paramilitary groups.
It is one of the key components of the Fresh Start agreement. The panel is made up of Lord Alderdice, Monica McWilliams and John McBurney.