‘In 2022, we should not still be seeing the poison of paramilitarism on our streets’
Alliance MLA Sorcha Eastwood urged the government to reassess their treatment of loyalist paramilitaries who are threatening violence over the Protocol.
She said loyalists threatening politicians was “clearly a matter of national security” and slammed the current stance which she says treats loyalist terrorism “simply as criminality”.
The Lagan Valley representative, who was elected for the first time in the Assembly election earlier this year, also called for the loyalist paramilitary groups represented by the controversial Loyalist Communities Council (LCC) to “pack up”.
It comes after the LCC said in a letter that support for the loyalist ceasefires was waning and there would be “dire consequences” if there was no movement on the Northern Ireland Protocol and any move towards joint authority between Dublin and London.
In a sinister turn the letter also states that "the Irish Government should not be visiting Northern Ireland whilst the Protocol remains, unless and until there is a significant change of attitude and recognition of the legitimate interests of the Unionist and Loyalist community".
The LCC is an umbrella group which represents the views of paramilitary gangs including the UVF and the UDA.
Speaking exclusively to the Sunday World Sorcha Eastwood said: “In 2022, we should not still be seeing the poison of paramilitarism on our streets. Those the Loyalist Communities Council purport to represent need to pack up and leave the stage.
“The NIO must urgently re-examine its approach to meeting with the LCC, as it gives credibility to what is essentially an umbrella group for active terror groups.
“The UK Government also needs to take the same stance with active loyalist paramilitaries as it does dissident republicans.
“The UK Government’s current approach to loyalist terrorism is that it is simply criminality. That is unsustainable. It is clearly a matter of national security when politicians, whether from here or neighbouring governments, are threatened.
“Any threats from these groups are disgraceful and need removed immediately. Repeated statements of this nature are a sinister development and play into the coercion paramilitaries carry out in our community.”
Those sentiments were echoed by UUP leader Doug Beattie who vowed yesterday to resist anyone who seeks to take Northern Ireland backwards following a sinister threat from loyalists.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph Mr Beattie said his party “totally rejects any notion of moving back to pre-ceasefire days and will resist anyone who seeks to take us back there”.
“The days of men and women being sent to fill jail cells or early graves in this country should be over,” he added.
“Peace and political process are the only way to advance our argument, be in no doubt of that.”
The letter also carried a clear warning that Irish Government ministers should not visit NI.
Mr Beattie says such comments do unionism no good and only weakens their position and laid the Brexit mess blame squarely at the door of the DUP.
“Quite simply it is the words of unionism in retreat, not the confident presentation of our argument which will win out on the protocol,” he said.
“It is the school of thought which sees unionism return to the table in a weaker position each time.”
Mr Beattie accused the DUP of creating a “mess” over Brexit and then “trying to make others the fall guys for their mistakes”.
Meanwhile the PSNI has said it has "appropriate and proportionate policing operation in place for any visits to Northern Ireland" by ministers from the Republic of Ireland, following the publication of the LCC letter.
Police said they were "aware" of the letter while the Northern Ireland Office has said joint authority is not under consideration.