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No Fresh Start until all paramilitaries go

Your article, "UDA boss Stitt's 1.7m reasons to be happy" (Online, October 3), will have sickened many law-abiding people who read it.

In May 2016, the "Fresh Start" panel report on the Disbandment of Paramilitary Groups in Northern Ireland noted: "A Fresh Start points to the need to build a more lawful, peaceful society, where paramilitary groups are no longer a part of everyday life and communities have confidence in the criminal justice system. This will require political leaders, the criminal justice system and all citizens to play a part in promoting and building a culture of lawfulness." (paragraph 4.4)

The UDA remains an organisation steeped in crime and its leaders do not avoid the limelight.

Yet the alacrity with which the UDA is accepted as a force for good by some sections of our political class should be a source of deep concern.

What confidence can ordinary people in loyalist areas have in our politicians, or the criminal justice system, when our First Minister, members of her party and the Executive Office bestow power, cover and legitimacy on UDA leaders, while in the areas they control the UDA continues to peddle drugs to our young people and violently intimidate communities for their own criminal aims? We will never have a "Fresh Start" until these double standards are addressed and the rule of law is applied to remove all paramilitaries.


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