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Politicians respond to threats from loyalist paramilitaries with defiance and contempt


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UUP leader Steve Aiken

UUP leader Steve Aiken

PA

UUP's Doug Beattie

UUP's Doug Beattie

Stephen Farry of Alliance

Stephen Farry of Alliance

The SDLP’s Patsy McGlone

The SDLP’s Patsy McGlone

Sinn Fein’s Linda Dillon

Sinn Fein’s Linda Dillon

UUP leader Steve Aiken

The Executive has said it will not allow threats against politicians by loyalist paramilitaries to derail it from the vital job of saving lives during the Covid-19 outbreak.

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

It comes after the politicians spoke out against threats made to Sunday Life and Sunday World journalists.

Speaking at yesterday's Executive press conference, Sinn Fein's Declan Kearney said those responsible were "despicable" and that politicians should be allowed to get on with "the real priorities in this society".

"Those responsible should go away and allow all fair and reasonable minded people to get on with the real priority in this society; ensuring we save lives, maintain the public health message that we need to work together in a joined up way, a whole society approach towards the development of a pathway beyond Covid-19," he said.

"What these people have done is an anathema to that."

DUP ministerial colleague Gordon Lyons added: "Journalists, like politicians, play a very important part in our society and should be allowed to get on with their jobs. There is no room whatsoever for threats."

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

Alliance MP Stephen Farry said: "None of us will be deterred in anyway from defending freedom of press and standing up to paramilitaries."

Former soldier Doug Beattie said he had been threatened many times while serving in uniform and would again treat it with the contempt it deserves.

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. 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."

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

"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."

SDLP's Patsy McGlone, Deputy Speaker at the Assembly, said that he refused to be intimidated.

"This is not the first time I've been threatened by paramilitaries but 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."

The Sunday Life and Sunday World journalists were targeted because of exposes 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.

Belfast Telegraph