Ulster Unionist leader rejects paramilitary support after call to back unionists in European election
The leader of the Ulster Unionists Robin Swann has reiterated that his party does not want the support of paramilitaries after the Loyalist Communities Council (LCC) urged voters to come out for unionist candidates in the upcoming European election.
The News Letter reported the LCC, an umbrella group for illegal loyalist paramilitary groups, called on voters not to even transfer votes to parties such as Alliance, claiming that would be "counted as a vote against the Union".
The LCC formed two and a half years ago with the aim of moving loyalist paramilitaries away from criminality.
Former Ulster Unionist chairman David Campbell, who is the LCC's chairman, urged all loyalist and unionist voters to "overcome their apathy and vote for all the unionist candidates" in Thursday's European election.
Following the story UUP leader Robin Swann MLA issued a statement on Monday.
“I repeat what I said in 2017," he said.
"We have not asked for the support of paramilitary organisations nor do we want the backing of organisations still engaged in paramilitary or criminal activity.
“Our position hasn't changed and remains unequivocal. There is no excuse for the continuing existence of paramilitary organisations in the year 2019 which inflict pain and suffering on families and communities.
"The quicker that they disband the better.”
Mr Swann's comments come after UUP councillor Jim Rodgers received criticism and had the party whip withdrawn after his campaign literature attempted to link the Alliance Party with the "IRA's political wing".
Mr Swann apologised to Alliance Party leader Naomi Long over the leaflet.
Mr Campbell, who has no paramilitary history, said in a statement: “The apathy and low turn-out that we experienced in the recent local government elections clearly helped the enemies of unionism.
“This should serve as a wake-up call to all unionist voters. Irrespective of each individual’s view on Brexit the pan-nationalist front will be counting every non-unionist vote as a vote for a united Ireland. This must not be allowed to succeed.
“Every loyalist and unionist is advised to vote for the first preference candidate of their choice, and then to transfer their other preferences to the other unionist candidates. This will ensure that Northern Ireland continues to send two unionist MEPs to Europe for as long as the UK retains its membership of the EU.
“A vote or even a lower preference vote for any non-unionist will be counted as a vote against the Union by our collective enemies.”
Belfast Telegraph Digital