Sinn Fein brands idea of Red Hand Commando as a community group 'ludicrous'
Loyalist paramilitary group the Red Hand Commando has made an application to be removed from the UK's list of proscribed terrorist organisations.
The application was submitted to the UK Home Office on September 6 asking for removal from the list which includes 14 Northern Ireland-based republican and loyalist groups.
Responding to the move, Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly said: "The idea that the Red Hand Commando could in anyway become a community organisation is ludicrous."
"How, and more importantly why, would you have a paramilitary organisation working as a community group? And what does that say to the victims of this organisation if their status and their activities is to be somehow legitimised? I am sure victims would find that abhorrent."
In his statement Mr Kelly questioned the links between the Red Hand Commando and the UVF, which on Monday was blamed for an attack in Larne in which shots were fired through a child's bedroom.
"Of course ex-prisoners and ex members of these groups are free to become involved in community organisations and to seek to play a positive role in society. That should be welcomed but they don’t need a legalised paramilitary group which is still connected to criminal activity in order to do that. What the Red Hand Commando, along with all other paramilitary organisations should do, is disband," Mr Kelly added.
Speaking this morning on BBC's Nolan Show, former member of the organisation and east Belfast community worker Jim Wilson - who was part of the delegation that made the submission to the Home Office - said that it was acting from a place of "true and abject remorse" and that he understood that there "are people out there today who have been hurt by our organisation, and other organisations in this conflict".
Mr Wilson also said that through his work with the Loyalist Communities Council, he was aware the the UDA and the UVF were also close to moving away from terror-based activities.
Speaking about the percentage of those organisations still involved in criminality, he put the figure at below 5%.
In a statement on the issue, a spokesperson for the UK government said: "Proscription decisions in relation to Northern Ireland are a matter for the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. As a general rule, however, we do not comment on individual organisations currently being considered for de-proscription."
Tweeting on Tuesday morning, TUV MLA Jim Allister wrote that the Red Hand Commando would show "genuine remorse" by disbanding completely.
Disbandment, not seeking legalisation, would show genuine remorse.— Jim Allister (@JimAllister) September 12, 2017
Belfast Telegraph Digital