Government needs to tackle loyalist paramilitaries as it does dissident republicans, says Eastwood

The UK Government needs to tackle loyalist paramilitaries the same way it does dissident republicans, Alliance’s Sorcha Eastwood has said.

Councillor Eastwood was speaking after media reports the UVF had issued a warning it was ‘actively planning’ on targeting Irish politicians and officials in Northern Ireland. It comes in the wake of a security alert on Friday in which Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney was evacuated from a peace-building event in North Belfast.

“Police have confirmed the UVF were behind Friday’s security alert and media reports have now suggested the organisation is actively planning on targeting other Irish politicians and officials,” said Councillor Eastwood.

“This and similar threats made recently by the UDA are disgusting and need removed immediately. In the meantime, they need to be taken seriously and stand in total contrast to claims by the Independent Reporting Commission regarding loyalists transitioning away from violence.

“Coming in the wake of statements by the Loyalist Communities Council (LCC) around Irish Government representatives not being welcome in Northern Ireland, this is an increasingly sinister development, which makes the UK Government’s approach to loyalist terrorism – that it is simply ‘criminality’ - unsustainable.

“It is clearly a matter of national security when Ministers from a neighbouring Government are being threatened and the UK needs to be willing to treat is as such in its approach. The NIO must also 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.

“Any false distinction between paramilitary and terrorist groups needs to end.”