Stormont probes UDA chief Stitt's ‘homeland security’ remarks
Stormont is considering remarks made by a UDA leader that his marching band is "homeland security" in north Down.
In a controversial video interview, Dee Stitt vowed that his flute band, the North Down Defenders, would defend the area "from anybody".'Brilliant loyalist groups' keeping drugs off Belfast streets, says UDA boss Stitt
He also claimed that loyalist groups kept drugs off the streets of Northern Ireland.
In an interview with the Guardian, Stitt - thought to be the boss of UDA in north Down - said loyalist groupings and community workers did "brilliant" work in their areas.
The comments came after Charter NI - of which Stitt is chief executive - received almost £2m of social investment funding earlier this year.
The awarding of the money sparked controversy due to Stitt's alleged links to the UDA.
However, First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness both defended the funding. A spokesman for the Executive Office said last night: "The comments have been drawn to the attention of the Executive Office."
During the interview, Stitt also compared working-class housing estates to "a jungle".
"There is always inter-community violence - in normal society there is always going to be a big guy," he said.
"Working-class housing estates... it's a jungle. People see paramilitary grouping structures as a negative.
"Some people see that as a negative and use it against loyalist communities (saying) they are involved in crime, drugs, racketeering. Loyalist groupings are doing some brilliant work. They are involved in community development running flute bands. Loyalist groups and community leaders keep drugs out of our communities, full stop."
A DUP spokesman reacted to the comments, saying they were committed to helping communities move away from the past.
"We are committed to building a stronger, better Northern Ireland," he added.
"This includes encouraging organisations and people within communities to move away from their past. We have been clear that we will work with those who are willing to move on, willing to transform and are in accordance with all the appropriate criteria.
"However words and actions go hand-in-hand. The DUP firmly believes that if there is any criminal activity, the police should be informed and should investigate it.
"Criminality has no role in the new Northern Ireland we seek to build, and we will not support any organisation who are involved in criminal activity."