UVF behind Cantrell Close threats which forced Catholic families out: Chief Constable George Hamilton
Chief Constable George Hamilton said the UVF was behind threats which forced Catholic families from a shared housing scheme in south Belfast.
Over the past week loyalist paramilitaries were blamed for threats which forced four families out of their homes in the Cantrell Close shared housing development.
Earlier on Thursday UVF flags around the area were taken down "as a gesture of goodwill," a community group linked to the UVF said. It also said loyalist community workers were threatened by dissident republicans.
Speaking after a meeting of the Policing Board, the chief constable laid the blame on the UVF.
We are 20 years after the Good Friday Agreement and I just wish the UVF wouldn't be there anymore. George Hamilton
"We have been engaged with the community in south Belfast and we are of the view that there is people purporting to be of east Belfast UVF behind those threats.
"Whether or not that is an organisational position we do not know because it is a chaotic disorganised crime group - that is how I would describe east Belfast UVF," he said.
Sinn Fein called for the threat to be lifted.
Mr Hamilton said the east Belfast UVF was being targeted in particular under the fresh start action plan.
"The UVF has not reason to exist and we are going to make life as difficult for them because they are a scourge on that community," he said.
Since the families were informed of the threats by Mr Hamilton's officers, there has been growing call for police to outline who was behind them. Up until Thursday, the PSNI would only say it was investigating where the threat came from and if they were credible.
"There are people using the guise of the UVF who we believe are members of that organisation who are threatening people because of their community background, because of their religion, to leave their home - that is not acceptable," said Mr Hamilton.
Asked outright if it was the UVF, he replied "yes".
"They have no legitimacy, they are a scourge on the community. People are giving us information out of fear and won't translate into a written statement so that we can go into court and give evidence against these people.
"We are 20 years after the Good Friday Agreement and I just wish the UVF wouldn't be there anymore."
Mr Hamilton said his officers were working to dismantle them and other criminal organisations. The Chief Constable said his officers had a duty to assess threats and inform the people they targeted.
"Can you imagine the uproar had we not taken action," he added.
"Our officers acted in good faith and could we have done anything better we will review that."
Cantrell Close, off the Ravenhill Road in the south of the city, was supposed to be a flagship cross-community development as part of the Stormont Executive's Together Building United Communities programme.
The police chief noted that the social housing development was supposed to be an example for shared living. "What an irony that is," he said.
He said a functioning executive would help create a more "stable" society and encouraged the region's politicians to strike a deal to restore a Stormont executive.
Sinn Fein policing spokesman Gerry Kelly added: "It is 2017. The UVF continues to be involved in murder, racketeering, extortion, drug dealing and issuing sectarian threats. They have no other purpose than to serve their own ends.
“The people involved in this intimidation need to be brought before the courts and we will continue to press the PSNI to bring charges against those involved.
Belfast Telegraph Digital