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Paramilitaries branded ‘parasites’ by Northern Ireland’s Justice Minister

Naomi Long challenged paramilitaries to ‘stop riding two horses’ by talking about moving away from violence but also ‘sabre rattling’.

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Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) mural in support the of Ulster loyalist paramilitary group, on the wall of a property on the Lower Newtownards Road in east Belfast (Liam McBurney/PA)

Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) mural in support the of Ulster loyalist paramilitary group, on the wall of a property on the Lower Newtownards Road in east Belfast (Liam McBurney/PA)

Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) mural in support the of Ulster loyalist paramilitary group, on the wall of a property on the Lower Newtownards Road in east Belfast (Liam McBurney/PA)

Paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland have been blasted as “parasites” by the region’s Justice Minister.

Naomi Long challenged groups to “show their bona fides” and move away from violence, instead of “riding two horses” by talking about withdrawal but also “sabre rattling”.

The murder of Co Antrim man Glen Quinn by the South East Antrim UDA in 2020 was raised in the Assembly on Tuesday.

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Justice Minister Naomi Long (NI Assembly/PA)

Justice Minister Naomi Long (NI Assembly/PA)

Justice Minister Naomi Long (NI Assembly/PA)

Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson asked Ms Long for an update on “tackling paramilitary activity and crime in East Antrim”.

She described Mr Quinn as an “innocent man who had been brutally murdered” and said his family have her “full support in standing up against these thugs”.

She described the South East Antrim UDA as remaining a “priority group” for the PSNI’s Paramilitary Crime Task Force.

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However she noted that “countering the enduring pervasive nature of paramilitarism requires a long-term, genuinely collaborative approach across government”.

She conceded there is fear around people coming forward with information.

“These are absolutely ruthless organisations who are interested only in feathering their own nests, at the expense of the local community, they are not paramilitaries they are parasites,” she said.

“They feed off the backs of local communities, and they destroy local communities and so it is important that we do have a criminal justice response.

“We can only do that with full cooperation of the community.”

Ms Long said she feels all have a “conversation to have” with paramilitaries.

But she added: “That is a simple conversation, it is to ask them when they are due to stop, because beyond that there is nothing more to be said.

Choose either you want to move away from violence, in which case, get on with it. Show us your bona fides and do itNaomi Long

Her comments come after the Loyalist Communities Council warned of anger among loyalists at post-Brexit arrangements which have disrupted trade across the Irish Sea, dubbed by some an Irish Sea border.

Ms Long told MLAs on Tuesday: “The time has come and gone, for people to continue to talk about wanting to move forward, particularly on one hand when they say one month, they want to move forward and the next month they are sabre rattling about the potential for further violence.

“You cannot ride two horses.

“Choose either you want to move away from violence, in which case, get on with it.

“Show us your bona fides and do it, and you will get nothing but support from those of us in this assembly chamber, or you want to continue to use the threat of violence and violence itself to coerce your community, and which case you will meet nothing from this assembly chamber, but a police response.”


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