UVF leader in meeting with DUP councillor about controversial bonefire

SENIOR loyalists, including a man believed to be a UVF leader, attended a meeting with a DUP councillor that ran until the early hours of the morning in a last-ditch effort to resolve a bonfire dispute in East Belfast.

Riot police at the Bloomfield walkway bonfire after it was set alight when mediation failed on Wednesday.

The Irish News has seen details of meetings that took place in the early hours of Wednesday, just hours before a bonfire at Bloomfield Walk-way was prematurely set on fire. Lee Reynolds, pictured below, the DUP group leader on Belfast City Council, was present at the meeting, as were Jamie Bryson and Stephen Matthews – widely believed to be the leader of the East Belfast UVF.

Lee Reynolds DUP group leader on Belfast City Council.

At 11.45pm on Tuesday Mr Reynolds and mediators met senior loyalists. Police were asked to attend but declined. The meeting took place hours after the High Court ruled that the landowner, the Department for Infrastructure, was responsible for the protection of life and property on its land at the walkway and that the pyre had to be removed or dramatically reduced in size.

LOYALIST: Stephen Matthews, widely believed to be the leader of the East Belfast UVF, was in attendance at the final-hour meetings.

The meeting lasted until after 1am with loyalists from the East Belfast Community Initiative, including Bryson and Matthews, going to the walkway to speak with a crowd of around 150 young people who had gathered at the site. This was done after speaking with mediators to calm tensions. There were fears at that time that the large crowd was preparing to engage in civil disorder and a large number of riot police were deployed to the area.

The bonfire builders were given the option to dismantle the bonfire themselves or told the PSNI and contractors – who were former members of the military – would take the material away, by force if necessary.

Contractors, ex military, protected by police, dismantle the Cluan Place bonfire later on Wednesday.

Bonfire builders refused to dismantle the pyre, which was five times the fire’s devices recommended height for the plot, saying they would sit on the wood to prevent it being moved. At 5am police moved in to start removing the material. At this stage only around 15 young people remained at the site. They set fire to the structure before fleeing, leaving fire crews to keep the blaze under control and hose down nearby properties. Masked contractors moved in and removed the remaining wood under the protection of riot police.

The same  contractors, protected by around 200 riot police, later removed a bonfire built in the middle of the road at Cluan Place in East Belfast. When asked about the talks, the East Belfast Community Initiative said the “late-night meetings took place with the view to trying to de-escalate tensions”. Who made up our delegation is a matter for ourselves. However, we can confirm that all attendees were present as representatives of EBCI. No-one in the delegation is a member of any proscribed organisation,” the spokesperson added. Mr Reynolds has been approached for comment.

With many thanks to: The Irish News for the original story.

The corrupt Tory/DUP alliance have tried to sneak this bill through parliament!

TEAM named to consider proposals to protect armed forces veterans from prosecution

This bill is trying to be sneaked through British parliament without the consent of Irish victims

A TEAM has been established in Britain’s Ministry of Defence to consider proposals to protect armed forces veterans from prosecution for historical allegations, the defence secretary has announced.

Gavin Williamson told MPs he understands concerns over whether current and former personnel were receiving the legal protection they deserve (for carrying out murder), amid calls for a statute of limitations.

During defence questions in the commons, Tory former minister Sir Henry Bellingham asked Mr Williamson if he would bring forward legislative proposals for a statute of limitations to protect British armed forces veterans from prosecution for historical allegations (including murder). Mr Williamson replied: “I understand concerns over whether serving and former personel are receiving the legal protection and certainty that they deserve.

” I am therefore pleased to announce that I have established a dedicated team within the Ministry of Defence to consider this issue and advise on the way forward. Defence committee chairman and Conservative MP Julian Lewis said his committee would “warmly welcome the setting up of a dedicated team”.

Chief Constable George Hamilton (pictured above on the right) has previously dismissed claims that legacy investigations are focusing mostly on former members of the security forces rather than paramilitaries. Figures released by the RUC/PSNI last year showed that around 70 per cent of investigations into killings during the Troubles do not involve the security forces.

The announcement came hours before MPs debated the North of Ireland’s Budget (No2) Bill, in which former defence secretary Sir Michael Fallon (pictured below) sought to amend to stop public money being used to fund historical prosecutions of former service personnel in the North of Ireland.

Secretary of State (SoS) Karen Bradley, moving the Bill at second reading, said: “Passing this budget bill does not remove the pressing need to have locally accountable political leaders in place to take the fundamental decisions that will secure a more sustainable future for the people in the North of Ireland.” She said the bill authorises North of Ireland departments and other bodies to incur expenditure of up to £8.9billion and use resources of up to £9.9bn for the financial year ending March 31 2019.

Ms Bradley said it was a “technical” budget bill although she added she was not dismissing the “constitutional significance” of the UK Parliament delivering this to the North of Ireland.

DUP MP Sammy Wilson said: “This is a difficult budget, in cash terms, it’s a flat budget and the amount of money available to government departments in the North of Ireland is no different than it was in the previous year, and that does present challenges.” Mr Wilson added the challenges included allocations being based on decisions taken by the assembly nearly two and a half years ago.

With many thanks to: The Irish News for the original story.

Principal disputes claim UDA flag erected ‘at entrance’ to Belfast primary school

One of the UDA flags erected in South Belfast in recent days.

A PRINCIPAL has disputed a claim that UDA flags have been put up “at the entrance” to a primary school.

Loyalist paramilitary flags have been erected in the Malton Drive area off Malone Road, close to several schools in south Belfast.

Among the UDA flags is one beside a school traffic warning sign on a lamppost along Finnis Drive.

Taughmonagh Primary School is at the end of the nearby Findon Gardens.

On Sunday, SDLP councillor Donal Lyons said “dozens” of UDA flags had been put up in the south Belfast area including “at the entrance to a primary school”.

“There can be no purpose in hanging these flags other than to glorify the terrorist acts of the past, and claim authority and control of an area in the present,” he said in a press release, which included a photo of the flag at Finnis Drive.

He added: “The fact that these UDA flags have been put up at the entrance to a primary school and outside the local community centre where young children will be forced to pass under them is particularly outrageous.

“There is no justification for these flags to be up and no reason that they should stay up.”

However Janet Douds, principal of Taughmonagh Primary School, branded the description of the flag’s location as a “complete fallacy”.

“The actual flag in question is on a school sign 0.2 miles from our school gates. It’s a generic school sign for all schools in the area which include Harberton Special School, Fleming Fulton, Oakwood and Glenveagh.

“The actual roadway up into my school is Findon Gardens, and there is not one single flag on that entire street – there’s nothing.

“As a school we are completely all-inclusive. We have Catholic parents who are more than happy to send their children here, and my fear would be that this would put other parents off.

“You have no idea how much this has annoyed our parents from both the Catholic and Protestant sides, because the parents know this is not a true reflection of what our school is and what it stands for.”

In response, Mr Lyons said: “I completely understand the school principal’s point and no school should have to get involved in a political matter of this type, which is why I didn’t single out any particular school.

“The fact is though that there are a number of schools in this area some of which have paramilitary flags at their school gates.

“The fact is also that the sheer number of paramilitary flags throughout Taughmonagh means that no child is able to go to school, use the playground or move around the estate without passing under the shadow of the UDA.

A UDA flag flying outside Taughmonagh Community Forum Resource Centre

With many thanks to: The Irish News for the origional story.

Irish Border Stance Is Driving Libreal And Hardline Unionists Together

 

EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier at the All-Island Civic Dialogue on Brexit in Dundalk

In the immediate aftermath of the EU referendum result, there was shock and dismay across Irish nationalism, which feared the return of a hard border and a more nationalistic UK moving further from the rest of Europe.

That feeling lingers, although it appears to have been somewhat lessened by the Irish Government’s robust stance in the Brexit negotiations, and the willingness of the EU to endorse that stance, putting the issue of the Irish border at or near the top of the talks process.

In the referendum, unionism voted largely to leave the EU, but there was sizable pro-remain unionist vote. But, just as there is a unity across nationalism to Brexit, so there is emerging a unified unionist front in opposition to the ‘backstop’ option which Mr Barnier articulated again yesterday.

That option – which only comes into play if the UK and the EU cannot agree on other solutions to avoiding a hard border, such as the use of technology or the entire UK remaining in a customs union – would involve regulatory alignment across the island of Ireland and customs checks between Northern Ireland and GB.

Last week DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds characterised such a stance as “almost the annexation of Northern Ireland”.

Although there are unionists who are fervently pro-EU, almost none of them have come out to support of the EU’s suggestion of an Irish Sea goods border.

Unionism increasingly united against EU stance

Yesterday the liberal UUP MLA Steve Aiken, who backed the remain side, used the same word as he denounced the EU’s stance.

Two months ago Lord Empey, one of David Trimble’s key negotiators during the talks which led to the Good Friday Agreement, wrote to Mr Barnier to express “deep concerns” about an EU approach which he said “undermines the Belfast Agreement and the constitutional integrity of Northern Ireland”.

In a pan-European negotiation about trade, security and constitutional principle, Northern Ireland is in some ways an insignificant area.

But with the Irish border an issue of emblematic significance to both sides, it has become critical to the talks.

Unionist unease will not stop Brussels endorsing the stance of one of its members, Ireland.

But the fierce unionist-nationalist split in Northern Ireland means that the EU stance is in effect almost indistinguishable with the stance of Irish nationalism – from the Irish Government to Sinn Féin and the SDLP.

That is undsurprising, given that Mr Barnier is representing Dublin, and the other EU members, in these talks.

But in adopting a stance which is that of one side of the political divide in Northern Ireland, it makes it more difficult for the EU to present its solution as a neutral attempt to save the Good Friday Agreement or even peace itself.

With many thanks to: E News for the origional story.

Five UDA men to stand trial for bar room attack on former leading loyalist

FIVE men have been ordered to stand trial accused of a bar room attack on a former leading loyalist.

Darren Moore sustained multiple head fractures, facial lacerations and a puncture wound to his stomach in an assault carried out while he was under threat from loyalists

Aaron Cahoon (28), David Rush (35), David Gibson (45), below, Robert Campbell (33), and Joshua Wylie (20), were part of a group of UDA thugs who beat Darren Moore (pictured above), with a hammer and bats at a pub in Doagh, Co Antrim in March 2017.

David Gibson (45), of Milewater Drive, Newtownabbey.

They appeared togeather at Belfast Magistrates’ Court yesterday jointly charged with intentionally causing him grievous bodily harm, possessing offensive weapons with intent to commit an indictable offence, and affray.

Moore, in his forties and formerly from the Mount Vernon area of Belfast, was said to have been attacked inside McConnell’s Bar (pictured below). He sustained multiple head fractures, facial lacerations and a puncture wound to his stomach in an assault carried out while he was under threat from loyalists, detectives disclosed previously.

McConnell’s Bar in Doagh, were the attack was carried out.

Up to 10 men were said to have launched the attack before escaping in a number of cars. Cahoon, of Cherrymount; Rush, from Ballyvesey Green; Gibson, of Milewater Drive – all in Newtownabbey; Campbell, from Clareville Avenue in Ballyclare; and Wylie, of Galgorm Road in Ballymeana, all deny the charges.

During the preliminary enquiry hearing all five men nodded to confirm they understood the allegations against them. None of them called witnesses or gave evidence at this stage in the proceedings. Backing prosecution submissions that each of the accused has a case to answer, District Judge Fiona Bagnall returned them all for Crown Court trial. She then released them on continuing bail until their arraignment on a date to be fixed. None of of the men were charged with belonging to an illegal organisition namely the UDA.

With many thanks to: The Irish News for the origional story.

Don’t be fooled it’s business as usual on our streets.

PARAMILITARY PEACE PROMISE ALL HOT AIR

THE absurdity of Monday’s announcement that loyalist paramilitaries are now fully supportive of the rule of law will not be lost on those who know the nature of the beasts.

Simply being a member of the UDA, Red Hand Commando or UVF is enough to put you behind bars for up to 10 years – not that anyone in authority seems to care. If we are to take ageing terror chiefs Jackie McDonald and Jim Wilson at face value you can expect to see the membership of these organisations dramtically decrease, because, according to Jackie, those involved in criminality are “masquerading as loyalists” and will be expelled. He’s said it before, yet the organisation he heads continues to be deeply involved in the drugs trade, extortion – of which Jackie is a bit of an expert – punishment attacks and putting people out of their homes.

CONCERNED

There was an air of desperation about Monday’s announcement. The flow of cash from the public purse has continued, against the better judgement of many people who are rightly concerned at the over-indulgence of illegal organisations who have been too slow to move with the times. But there is now a real threat to the liberty of many of the men under McDonald’s command.

The paramilitary Crime Task Force has been slowly turning the screw, targeting the UDA’s criminal endeavours on the Shankill and more recently in North Down. Arrests are being made and charges pressed.

Stringent conditions governing the release of grants threaten to slow the cash flow, and we all know there’s nothing like putting liberty at stake and cutting the cash to focus the mind of a loyalist paramilitary. It would be wonderful to think there is a genuine desire to move away from criminality and there is no question there are many, many veteran paramilitaries who have turned their backs on their organisation, appalled at their involvement in drugs.

Equally there are many paramilitary leaders who continue to grow fat on the proceeds of organised crime – don’t expect that to change. Monday wasn’t a red letter day. No one doubts the sincerity of the church leaders and community activists who helped ‘broker’ this week’s announcement, but away from the hallowed walls of the Linen Hall Library it was business as usual.

A death threat issued against a journalist, a man lucky to be alive when shots were fired as he walked the streets of north Belfast, a show of strength in Bangor and a hoax pipe bomb thrown through a window of a family home in Ballymoney. It will take more than the pious words of Jackie McDonald and Jim Wilson to convince anyone that after all these years they are finally going stright.

With many thanks to the: Sunday World and Richard Sullivan for the origional story.l

More UDA links exposed with-in the DUP as calls come in for Assembly speaker Robin Newton’s resignation over his ties to UDA-linked group.

Alleged UDA commander Dee Stitt (left) and assembly speaker Robin Newton 
DUP Speaker Robin Newton has rejected allegations that he misled the Assembly over his links to a UDA-linked community organisation but said he will now not seek re-election to the position.

The East Belfast MLA is under increasing pressure after a BBC Spotlight programme claimed he misled the assembly about the extent of his association with Charter NI.

The lie’s sorry “untruths” being peddled by the BBC. If you really believe their ‘false news’ then you need to open your eyes to the truth.

The community group, which was awarded management of £1.7m of public money for an employability project, is headed up by alleged UDA ‘commander’ Dee Stitt.

Mr Newton, who is still being paid £87,000-a-year as speaker and MLA despite the assembly not sitting, previously told MLAs that while he offered advice to Charter NI as part of his role as an elected representative he was not an “advisor” to the east Belfast group.

However, a BBC Spotlight investigation into the controversial Social Investment Fund (SIF) has claimed documents dating back several years show he attended board meetings, helped head-hunt board members and lobbied funders on behalf of the organisation, which repeatedly refers to him in minutes as an advisor.

The DUP Today outside Downing Street. Flying the flags of the Orange, UDA and the UVF.

Mr Newton said: “I reject the allegations in the Spotlight programme. I did not mislead the NI Assembly. I have never been appointed to any position with Charter NI. I am not responsible for how others refer to me in their correspondence.

“I will not be a candidate for Speaker in any new Assembly. At the next NI Assembly sitting, I will chair the election of a new Speaker as the first matter of business.”

One set of minutes featured in the Spotight programme says that he helped to “steer” the board and did “more than just go to the board meetings”.

The Irish News previously reported how Mr Newton lobbied for money for Charter NI just weeks before refusing an urgent assembly question by the SDLPs Nichola Mallon about its funding.

He apologised to assembly members for not delegating the decision given his links to the group.

David Ford, Alliance Deputy Leader,  called for Mr Newton’s immediate resignation.

“If these allegations are true, and judging by the documents unveiled on tonight’s programme, they are, then the Speaker has no option but to resign his role with immediate effect…”

“Alliance recognises people with a paramilitary past can play a positive and constructive role in society. But when people with a paramilitary present are doing so, there is a problem. That is the situation with some individuals in Charter NI.

“We have serious concerns about the lack of fairness and effective use of resources being directed towards certain groups, which is why we wrote in the summer to ask for an Audit Office investigation into SIF.

“There also needs to be a revised paramilitary strategy which is backed by all parties and which has clearly defined goals and targets. Only by doing so can we finally remove the poison of paramilitarism from society.”

Speaking last night, the SDLP deputy leader said; “It is clear from the documentation unearthed by Spotlight that Mr Newton failed to declare to the assembly and public the full extent of his role with Charter NI when he ruled against my urgent oral question on the funding of public money to this organisation from being heard and answered.”

Arlene Foster Leader of the DUP pictured here with one of the Leaders of the UDA.

The DUP did not respond to request for a comment last night, but Mr Newton told Spotlight in a statement that he has worked with and offered advice to all sections of the east Belfast community, including community organisations, and some of his contacts have been formal, stronger or longer than others.

It has been claimed that the DUP used the Social Investment Fund, administered by the Executive Office, to help attract votes from hardline loyalist communities.

The BBC put this question to former leader Peter Robinson, said to be the architect of the fund, who responding by saying “Catch yourself on”, adding that most political parties had held meetings with former paramilitary leaders at some stage.

In a statement to Spotlight, the Executive Office said: “Appropriate governance procedures are in place to ensure the programme is delivered and managed effectively.”

With many thanks to: The Irish News for the original story. 

Follow this link for the Spotlight Program: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b097tm63/spotlight-10102017#