Naomi Long has questioned over 33 statements on UVF and UDA crime – but none on the ongoing “large-scale smuggling” of the IRA

Justice Minister Naomi Long speaks out on DUP's ties to loyalists

Justice Minister Naomi Long spoke about DUP’s ties to loyalists

DUP MP Ian Paisley said this week that there is now a desire to formalize a relationship “between loyalty and the leadership of the DUP”. But Ms. Long countered that the DUP’s engagement with loyalists is “completely inappropriate” if it involves “getting closer to loyalist terrorists”.

This prompted the News Letter to ask his department why the Organized Crime Task Force (OCTF) he oversees has issued some 33 statements on operations against terrorist groups UVF and UDA since March 2020 – but not on the IRA’s ongoing smuggling.

The Northern Ireland Bureau’s 2015 Paramilitary Report – which the PSNI still claims – said members of the IRA are still involved in “criminal activities such as large-scale smuggling”.

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MP Ian Paisley, who has spent a lot of time investigating fuel smuggling as a member of the NI Affairs Committee, said Ms Long should clarify the issues.

“These are embarrassing truths that the Justice Department should be asked to explain,” he said. “We shouldn’t have generalized the comments that this is ‘criminal smuggling’ – we should have specific comments because we all know that smuggling has been a key feature of IRA activity in the world. over the past 40 years. “

Mr Paisley said in his experience no one who is arrested for smuggling fuel to NI is serving a prison sentence and there are no punitive fines because those responsible are only required to repay the income. lost in the treasury.

“Still, the loss to the Treasury is probably measured at over a billion pounds.”

He added: “I’ve always worried that there was a soft, gentle approach that goes back to Tony Blair’s days when I think there was kind of an agreement with the provisionals so that an eye blind is turned to smuggling to consolidate the peace process. “

“The fact that the OCTF is prepared to name and humiliate some of the organizations involved – I have no problem with that – but I think they should name and humiliate them all.”

The newsletter asked the Department of Justice (DoJ) why the OCTF does not publish the successes against the “large scale smuggling” of the IRA or make no appeal to find the Bank of Northern Ireland , £ 26million stolen by the IRA in 2004?

This document also asked why Ms. Long did not speak out in light of recent comments from Chief of Police Simon Byrne; In April, he told the News Letter that he still stands on the 2015 report, which states that the IRA Army Council “still oversees both PIRA and Sinn Féin with a comprehensive strategy.”

The DOJ responded that the OCTF is a forum “not an operational body” – but did not explain why it never publicizes IRA contraband operations.

In response, Ms. Long did not say whether she had ever criticized the IRA’s current ties to a political party.

“It doesn’t matter if they are loyalists or Republicans, terrorists have no place in our democratic society,” she said. “I recognize that people who have a past can also have a future: the former paramilitaries are part of our community and have the right to express their opinion and engage politically, but it has to be on the same basis as everything. the world, and without the threat of intimidation or violence. It is high time that all those who are engaged in paramilitary and terrorist activities desist, separate and move forward with the rest of us.

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