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Sunday Life will never be silenced by threats

Voices united in blasting UDA thugs' intimidation

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A new UDA mural in the Glenfada area of Carrickfergus. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press

A new UDA mural in the Glenfada area of Carrickfergus. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press

A new UDA mural in the Glenfada area of Carrickfergus. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press

Sunday Life will not be silenced by vile death threats from a loyalist crime mob.

We will continue to investigate and expose those gangsters, both loyalist and republican, from right across the country who are involved in all forms of criminality including the South East Antrim UDA which has become one of Northern Ireland's most dangerous organised crime gangs.

Human rights organisations and politicians have called for the warnings issued by the South East Antrim UDA to the Sunday Life and Sunday World newspapers to be lifted.

Peter Vandermeersch, publisher at INM which owns Sunday Life and Sunday World, said "threats against journalists should not be tolerated in any free society".

"It is depressing that thugs still believe they can silence the press through intimidation. We will continue to publish stories that shed light in dark corners," he added.

Ulster Unionist leader Steve Aiken described the threats to journalists are "simply inexcusable".

"Whatever your opinion of individuals are, a free and unfettered press is a mark of democracy. The PSNI must investigate and bring the perpetrators to justice," he added.

His Upper Bann MLA party colleague Doug Beattie, a former Army captain who won the Military Cross medal for valour, condemned the threats as "fascism at its finest, with beer-bellied thugs directing spotty faced kids".

The SDLP's Mid Ulster MLA Patsy McGlone added his voice to the condemnation, saying: "Solidarity with journalists at Sunday Life and Sunday World threatened by thuggish fascists. Threats to a free press are threats to democracy."

Alliance Party MP for North Down, Stephen Farry, said: "Full support for Sunday Life and Sunday World journalists in continuing to do their job and shine lights into dark corners. Threats must be condemned and investigated."

Amnesty International described the threats against the journalists as "disgusting". Spokesman Patrick Corrigan said: "Such threats are a disgusting attempt to intimidate journalists from doing their jobs, and constitute an attack on freedom of the press in Northern Ireland. We send our solidarity to the journalists concerned.

"Northern Ireland continues to be the most dangerous part of the UK to be a journalist. This practice of attacking the messenger must end."

The Sunday Life and Sunday World journalists were targeted by the South East Antrim UDA because of exposés in both titles about its criminality, drug dealing and involvement in the January murder of terminally ill Glen Quinn in Carrickfergus. Police visited the journalists' homes during the early hours of Friday morning, with one being told of a potential under-car booby-trap attack.

The South East Antrim UDA controls turf stretching 20 miles from Larne to north Belfast, along with pockets of Newtownards.

It is led by veteran loyalist Gary Fisher who took charge of the organisation in 2003 when its former boss John 'Grugg' Gregg was murdered during a feud.

National Union of Journalists (NUJ) general secretary Seamus Dooley branded the newspaper threats as "a vile attempt to intimidate editors, journalists and publishers".

He said: "This threat should be lifted immediately and unequivocally by the South East Antrim UDA. We appeal to anyone who may be in a position to influence these people to immediately intervene. While these paramilitaries are trying to intimidate journalists and their families, key workers - including journalists - are making huge sacrifices for their communities."

Last year writer Lyra McKee was shot dead by the New IRA during rioting in Derry and in 2001, Sunday World journalist Martin O'Hagan was gunned down by the LVF in Lurgan. He was targeted because of his investigations into the gang's drug dealing and criminality.

Belfast Telegraph