SDLP to raise issue of loyalist violence

 

The SDLP is to raise ongoing loyalist violence at today's Policing Board meeting in Belfast. The party is concerned about the increasing number of attacks on Catholic families and property.

SDLP policing spokesman, Mr Alex Attwood, said it was a very serious situation which must be addressed by both senior policing and political figures. He voiced particular concern at recent events in north Belfast, east Derry, and north-east Antrim.

"We urgently need to address the ongoing security situation and all the matters such as rehousing that arise from it." There is growing concern among nationalist politicians that the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) is not responding adequately to the loyalist threat and that prominent loyalists involved in orchestrating the violence have not been prosecuted.

An SDLP delegation yesterday met the North's Security Minister, Ms Jane Kennedy, to discuss the issue. "We asked her why there did not appear to be sufficient vigour in prosecuting those directing these attacks, given the fact that the UDA is not on ceasefire and its commanders are well known," Mr Attwood said.

"She has agreed to raise certain matters in this regard with the Chief Constable, Ronnie Flanagan." The SDLP named individuals it believed may be involved in paramilitary activity and asked why there appeared to be a "lack of police and prosecution intervention".

The party has requested a meeting with senior police officers in Belfast, east Derry, and Co Antrim to discuss recent loyalist attacks. He said he told Ms Kennedy of the concern in the community at the failure of the authorities to "get on top" of the UDA threat. "This is having an adverse effect on the community, an adverse effect on policing and on the overall process at a time when that process is getting stronger."

Mr John Dallatt, the SDLP Mayor of Coleraine, where loyalist paramilitaries have been active, said: "People are asking why more of the UDA godfathers are not being identified, pursued and prosecuted for their systematic attacks on Catholics, nationalists, and other communities.

"The fact that the Security Minister agreed to ask the Chief Constable of the PSNI why people were not being prosecuted begins to address this public anxiety."