PSNI funding given to charities led by IRA and UVF killers
Charities whose directors include convicted Provisional IRA and UVF killers have been handed a staggering £61,000 of grant money by the PSNI.
Sunday Life uncovered the cash funding just days after a government watchdog said paramilitaries are still heavily involved in crime.
Latest accounts published by Community Restorative Justice (CRJ), which has ties to the IRA, and South Belfast Alternatives, which is associated with the UVF, reveal the PSNI payouts totalling almost £24,000 during 2018.
The bulk of the cash went to CRJ which received £22,406, while South Belfast Alternatives took in £1,000. In 2017, CRJ received an additional £37,594 from the police.
PSNI chiefs last night defended the funding, with Assistant Chief Constable Tim Mairs saying: "The PSNI is committed to policing within the community through making referrals to legally accredited restorative justice organisations.
"These schemes allow us to help achieve an effective partnership with the PPS and other key partners in the criminal justice system in order to deliver a professional service which strives for positive outcomes for victims."
ACC Mairs insists this is a good approach, adding: "It will help us reduce harm caused by crime and anti-social behaviour with a focus on protecting the most vulnerable, and help protect and support repeat victims. Where we have evidence that individuals are involved in criminality we will investigate, seek to gather evidence and where appropriate report to the PPS."
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CRJ has offices throughout nationalist areas of Northern Ireland and counts among its senior staff Harry Maguire, who was jailed for life for the 1988 IRA killings of two corporals in west Belfast.
Convicted UVF murderer Tom Winstone heads Alternatives NI. Both men now renounce violence.
Also on the board of trustees at Alternatives' PSNI-funded south Belfast branch is leading Donegall Pass loyalist Eddie Rainey. CRJ, which received more than £500,000 of public funding last year, pledges to help resolve disputes including family feuds, hate crimes, and anti-social behaviour.
South Belfast Alternatives says it provides non-violent solutions to issues of community justice and works with young people to solve the problems affecting their lives. Its parent group Alternatives NI raked in more than £1m of public funding during 2018.
While both charities do good work in the community, the ties they have to illegal paramilitary gangs causes major concern.
The Provisional IRA was linked to two punishment-style shootings in west Belfast during 2018, while the South Belfast UVF has been responsible for trying to drive a family from their Sandy Row home which it has repeatedly attacked.
In a study published earlier this month the Independent Reporting Commission (IRC) on paramilitary activity found republican and loyalist violence "remains a stark reality of life".
It went on to say that "paramilitaries continue to exert coercive control" over communities.
The IRC added that there are still "thousands of sworn members" of paramilitary groups and while the majority of these individuals are "dormant" they "provide cover for the much smaller number of members involved in paramilitary criminality".
Other key statistics were that loyalists were responsible for more assaults and republicans were involved in more shootings.
According to the IRC, there are 88 organised crime groups in Northern Ireland, 22 of which have paramilitary links.