UUP leader calls on UVF and UDA to bring paramilitary activity to 'immediate end'
UUP leader Robin Swann has called on the leadership of the UVF and UDA to bring their paramilitary activities to an immediate end.
Mr Swann was speaking on Saturday at the UUP Spring Conference at Belfast's Park Avenue Hotel.
Addressing the January murder of Ian Ogle, Mr Swann offered his condolences to the east Belfast man's family and said that Northern Ireland cannot be dragged back to "darker days in our history".
In a wide ranging speech Mr Swann also addressed Brexit and launched separate attacks on the DUP and Sinn Fein for their failure to form a Stormont Executive.
He also called for the immediate introduction of direct rule from Westminster and the appointment of Ministers.
Turning to Mr Ogle's murder, the UUP leader said that it was time loyalist paramilitaries give up violence for good.
"There is no need or justification whatsoever for those who continue to threaten and exert control over our communities in Northern Ireland," Mr Swann said.
"The Ulster Unionist Party made it clear in 1998 that for those who wished to abandon violence there was a path for them to take. However, there are those who have refused to do so and continue to cast a dark shadow."
"We commit to challenging criminality in all its forms and we call on the leaders of the UVF and the UDA to take the civilian path and bring all paramilitary activity to an immediate end."
The North Antrim MLA issued a warning to those still involved in criminality.
"For those who continue to engage in criminality we say that you must get off the backs of our people, or face the inside of the jail cell," Mr Swann said.
"We want a better future for all our communities. One where everyone can look forward to better days without having to look over their shoulders at those who still seek to control and coerce."
In April 2018 the UDA, UVF and Red Hand Commando issued a joint statement saying they supported the rule of the law and that members involved in crime would be expelled.
Community worker and father of two Mr Ogle was murdered by a group of men near his Cluan Place home on January 27.
Police said Mr Ogle had been stabbed 11 times in the back and suffered a fractured skull.
Two men have been charged with his murder.
Belfast Telegraph Digital