04/10/2016 Spotlight


04/10/2016

Stephen Dempster investigates how loyalist paramilitaries control some communities and asks if a new Stormont plan to end paramilitarism can work.


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Transcript


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It's decision time for the paramilitaries.

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Stormont has agreed another pot of money to encourage them away

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from violence and crime.

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But this time it says if Republicans and Loyalists don't leave the stage,

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a major crackdown is coming.

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Have previous government and police efforts to keep the men of violence

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in the peace process, turned the paramilitaries into mafia

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gangs that are too tough to crack?

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Tonight, we focus on the activities of the UDA and how police

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and government attempts to engage with its community representatives

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have appeared to legitimise the organization and

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undermine the rule of law.

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And we ask is Stormont capable of putting the paramilitaries out

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of business, once and for all?

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It's Monday afternoon on the peace line between the Shankill

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and the Falls.

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A steady stream of tourists comes to survey the wall of concrete

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and steel that divides the two communities.

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It's territory that Shankill community worker

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and Pastor Jack McKee knows well.

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Well, I have led here virtually all my life.

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I am 64 years of age now.

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My mother was from the Shankill.

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Jack remembers the wall going up.

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We knew that it was cutting off the other side from the Shankill

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Road and it was removing some of the fear yes it was welcomed.

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Nobody thought that it was going to be up for this long.

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His work here is all about breaking down barriers.

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There's a church, sports hall and a coffee shop attracting people

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living on both sides of the wall.

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The building was ideal because it literally straddles the Shankill

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and Falls Road and it straddles both communities,

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and for that reason both communities are coming into this

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centre every single day.

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But there is a problem.

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So you are going to take me down to what is the peace line

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and show me the gates?

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The gates have been here since 1969.

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For nearly four years, Jack has been campaigning

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to get the peace gate here at Northumberland Street

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to stay open in the evening.

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It closes at 6:30pm.

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Anyone wanting to come into our building from 6:30pm

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at night need to, if they are coming from the Falls Road they need

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to travel through the Shankill community.

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And, er, I am not suggesting that they are at risk, but that

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certainly places them at more risk than having to just

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come through...

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To come through these gates.

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We understand that a recent Housing Executive survey found that

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a majority of people in the area had no problem with the gates

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being opened later.

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Stormont wants to remove all the interface barriers and walls

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in the city by 2022.

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It's seen as pivotal to a shared future.

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So why won't it open the gates later?

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We've been told the answer is that loyalist paramilitaries

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from the Shankill want the gates closed in the evening.

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That as so-called defenders of the community, they want these

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barriers kept in place.

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Back in 2013, former Justice Minister David Ford met

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Jack McKee and supported the idea of the gates opening later.

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He now confirms paramilitary representatives were pushing back

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against the plan.

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There were on the Shankill side of the line, those

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who were literally regarding themselves as gatekeepers,

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who sought to use influence to not have the gates

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opened too much.

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And to be clear, the people on the Shankill side,

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that were lobbying the department not to open the gates longer,

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would it be fair to say they were representatives

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of the UDA and UVF?

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I couldn't attribute any individual to any specific organisation,

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but that's certainly my belief, that there were links between, er,

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some of those people, and the two organisations.

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This comes as little surprise to Jack McKee.

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A senior police officer did say to me in front of two members

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from department of justice that I was part of the problem

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as I wouldn't go and talk to paramilitaries within the Shankill

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Road about the opening of these gates.

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I was affronted by that.

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I've been attacked by paramilitaries had my home attacked by them,

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been sentenced to death by them.

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I buried young men in our church and other places murdered

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by paramilitaries in our own community.

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Why would I want to talk to them about opening gates?

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I want to talk to department of justice about these

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gates being open.

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Many people believe the way in which government and the PSNI

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consult paramilitary representatives, grants these groups

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an unofficial role in running and policing communities.

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The PSNI does not deny a relationship with certain

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paramilitaries and that relationship is now under scrutiny.

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Jack McKee says a police chief inspector told him you need to go

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and talk to the paramilitary.

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Well, I don't know about the details of the gate opening

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and who influences what over that.

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What I'm saying is, that we will not do anything to legitimise

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paramilitary leaders as paramilitary leaders.

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Now there is a grey area.

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And for some reason, there's this schizophrenia where they're

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a community representative by day and then they take a paramilitary

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badge or label by night.

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I'm not condoning that, I'm not an advocate for it,

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I think the paramilitary should go away, frankly.

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I don't want to do anything to legitimise paramilitary groups

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but there also needs to be a pragmatism around how

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and when police engage with community representatives

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who may still have some sort of paramilitary trappings associated

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to them or are believed to be so.

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But let me be clear.

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We will never be so close to these people that we can't do our job.

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It is 22 years ago this month that Loyalist paramilitaries

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announced their ceasefire.

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The combined Loyalist military command will universally cease

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all operational hostilities as from midnight on Thursday,

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13th October 1994.

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It was here at Fernhill House, at the top of the Shankill,

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where that statement was made.

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It was a ray of hope that the terrorists were on a path

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to peace and disbandment.

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But it's an event that's faded into history and in the intervening

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years, there have been many more false dawns.

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As politicians, churchmen and even presidents have tried to convince

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the UVF and UDA to leave the stage.

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Last year, Stormont's Fresh Start Agreement acknowledged the extent

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to which paramilitaries, on both sides of the divide,

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remain woven into communities.

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And the political deal pledged a new effort to disband the groups.

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A paramilitary disbandment panel was set-up to investigate

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the problem and delivered a report in June this year.

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It made for stark reading about the extent to

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which paramilitaries control certain areas.

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They are a threat to democracy and rule of law more than an actual

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threat to the peace process.

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On the Loyalist side, it was extremely worrying individual

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gangsters and the structures of criminal gangs,

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and the recruitment of young people not necessarily for the war,

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but to do anti-democratic jobs, pushing drugs, selling drugs,

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and that's controlling those young people and in a coercive fashion.

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Once in, they couldn't get out.

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That has to stop.

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It reminded me of what I saw on the south side of

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Chicago, with gangsters...

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In 2016, come on.

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This is the Lower Shankill, in 2016.

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Nowhere has the paramilitary scourge been more overt over

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the years than here.

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20 years ago, this was home to Johnny Adair and his notorious

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UDA unit, C Company.

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Adair was ousted in a UDA coup, in 2003, but the paramilitary grip

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on this area didn't end there.

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It's early Saturday morning and this is the Shankill Estate.

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One of the first things you're welcomed by is a UFF/UDA mural.

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So there is a mix of murals, UFF graffiti,

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and UDA flags on houses.

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More UDA plaques, there's definitely a stamp of authority on the estate.

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There no doubt that the presence of the UDA and UFF is still here.

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Fear of the UDA stalks this community.

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Over recent weeks, we've had to meet secretly with people from here

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because they were frightened of being seen talking to us.

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They spoke of punishment beatings, attacks on homes, and exiling

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of people, still happening on a regular basis.

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The victims are those who defy the UDA.

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And most often young people.

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One person who crossed the local UDA was 23-year-old Neil Orr

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from the Shankill estate.

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He was a kind soul.

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He was bubbly, he was funny.

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He was witty.

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He would have given you his last.

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Just always there for everybody.

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Neil was addicted to his prescription medication and began

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buying and selling extra tablets to feed this habit.

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His cousin Tracey Coulter says this brought him to the attention

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of C Company in July 2013.

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She says the UDA demanded he join the organisation and sell

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drugs for them.

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But he said no.

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The torturing started.

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You know, getting cars to drive past his house, or if he was

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walking up the estate, cars was following behind him,

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making him more paranoid than what he already

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would have been.

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Because he

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did suffer from mental health issues as well?

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The threats included these texts messages, which Tracey says

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were from a senior UDA man on the Shankill,

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sent to Neil's phone.

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Under stress, Neil began taking more tablets.

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He overdosed and died.

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Our Neil left behind two kids and a pregnant girlfriend.

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He didn't even get to see his other wee son being born.

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He is missed.

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It's hard when you know he's not...

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You're not going to see him again.

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Tracey blames the UDA for Neil's death.

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And the pressure put on him is not unique.

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If you cross the UDA on the Shankill,

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you pay the penalty.

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Last year, C Company members nailed one young man's hands

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to a kitchen worktop.

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We also know of parents, frightened their children

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will face similar fates, having to take out loans

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for hundreds of pounds

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to pay-off debts their children owe the UDA for drugs.

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So who are the people that run the Lower Shankill UDA or C Company

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as it is known?

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We met with a loyalist from the area.

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He agreed to be interviewed if we protected his identity

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as he fears for his safety.

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What he says echoes what others have told us.

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His words are spoken by an actor.

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Nothing goes on without UDA's knowledge.

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And if anybody does anything wrong, it'll be brought

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to their attention by somebody.

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Most of them are thugs, that are into extortion, drug dealing.

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Anything to do with money, they're involved in it.

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Whether it's cigarettes, whether it's drink,

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whether it's clothes, they're involved into that.

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Spotlight has spoken to well-placed sources who have told us that

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C Company is making between ?20,000 and ?40,000 a week profit

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from the sale of drugs alone, mainly cocaine, cannabis

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and prescription pills.

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Three key men run C Company.

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Meet Mo Courtney.

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Now in his mid 50s, he was jailed in 1991 for robbery and hijacking,

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and became a leading UDA figure in the Maze prison.

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This is him pictured during tensions at that

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time of a loyalist feud.

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He was later jailed for the manslaughter of Shankill

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man Alan McCullough, who was killed by the UDA in 2003.

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Mo Courtney's always had rank within C Company.

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He used to be there with Johnny Adair, from that squad.

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Mo Courtney is the man who pulls the strings.

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Everything goes through Mo.

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And this man is Dee Coleman, the 30-year-old so-called

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Provost Marshal of C Company.

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He joined the UDA as a boy, his first conviction was related

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to the feud in 2000, when he was aged 14.

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Our source says Coleman was a protege of Johnny Adair.

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He started stealing cars for them.

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He just got involved in local thuggery, riots, things like that.

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Anything where money was involved, Dee Coleman was there

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involved with it.

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Aged just 21, in 2007 Coleman was jailed for extorting money

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on behalf of the UDA.

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In recent years, he has been fined for possession of an imitation

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weapon and drugs offences.

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And, finally, this is Denis Cunningham.

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Spotlight has met him before.

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You may not recognise him with his mask off.

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Because this is Cunningham filmed in 2002, reading a UDA statement.

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The Ulster freedom fighters wish to make clear that they don't

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use any other name as a flag of convenience.

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Cunningham was later jailed for fronting this

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paramilitary press conference.

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Our sources say he is the overall commander of C Company.

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But he doesn't get his hands dirty by being involved in the drug

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dealing and criminal activity.

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He hasn't got a reputation.

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It's just the men he knows, that he's been round.

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He can speak words, he's an educated person.

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So therefore he knows what to say.

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And how to say it.

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These are the paramilitary godfathers who control

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the Lower Shankill.

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On a day-to-day basis senior members of the UDA are often based

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in the Lower Shankill Community Association, here

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on the Shankill Road.

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There are volunteers and staff here not involved in the UDA.

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It runs education, training and youth outreach programmes

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and works with the Housing Executive and police on issue

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of community concern.

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But while it is engaged in this work, locals we have talked to view

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this building in another way.

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The Lower Shankill Community Association - do you know

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what they are used for?

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UDA headquarters.

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C Company headquarters.

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That's where it all happens from.

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And why do you say that?

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You've a problem with the UDA, you go to the offices.

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You speak to Denis Cunningham.

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Or Dee Coleman.

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After her cousin Neil died of a drugs overdose,

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Tracey Coulter came here to raise her concerns

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about his death.

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She says she arranged to meet this man at the office.

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He's Matt Kincaid.

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Matt Kincaid's a brigadier of west Belfast.

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So, I went round to speak to him, to, um, let him know

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just how badly overrun that the lower Shankill had got,

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because of all the drug dealing in it.

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I just want to be clear on one point.

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You'd arranged to meet Matt Kincaid, the west Belfast

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brigadier of the UDA.

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Why?

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And why at the Lower Shankill Community Association offices?

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Because that's where the UDA run, that's basically

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like the UDA headquarters, the Lower Shankill

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Community Association.

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That's where you go to talk to the brigadier.

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When she arrived for the meeting there was no sign of Kincaid.

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But there were other people in the office.

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Whenever I got there...

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Um, and the minute I walked in, Dee Coleman was there

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and Mo Courtney was there, and Denis Cunningham was there.

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Obviously there was going to be some kind of confrontation because this

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had all been brewing.

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A heated argument broke out between her and Coleman and then

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Mo Courtney got involved.

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He jumped up and says, "Get out to lock."

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and I told him to go and lock himself and mind his own business.

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And then he jumped off the chair and head butted me, and grabbed me

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by the throat and then assaulted me.

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Tracey called the police to the offices and made

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a complaint against Courtney.

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She claims that in the four months between the assault and the case

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coming to court, she then suffered a UDA campaign of intimidation.

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And from the July, and the court case wasn't till the December,

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from then till the December, my name was spread

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all round the walls, Tracey Coulter, PSNI informer.

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Um...

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They would gather all round my house, walking past it.

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And I lived with CCTV, etc., so the police

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were being called constantly.

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Um...

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They threw paint round my windows, with my kids present.

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Um, they threw paint in the streets, when I was walking down

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with another girl.

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It just never stopped.

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Despite this, Tracey gave evidence against Courtney,

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and he was convicted of assault.

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The case was not treated as paramilitary related.

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But Tracey says that in court she made clear her belief that

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Courtney is a UDA member.

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She also says Courtney's solicitor described his client

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was a community worker.

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We wanted to know more about the Association

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and what it does.

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Its mission statement says it: "plays a pivotal role

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"in the physical, social and economic regeneration

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"of the Shankill area".

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In particular, it has had a lot of publicity,

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and a lot of money for replacing some of the UDA murals in the area

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with new community friendly art.

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But as we have seen, many UDA murals remain

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to advertise the UDA's control.

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Despite the community group's links to the UDA,

0:21:420:21:48

we've discovered public funding of the organisation has been

0:21:480:21:50

significantly increasing.

0:21:500:21:54

To date, the group has not published its accounts.

0:21:540:21:57

But through Freedom of Information requests we have calculated that it

0:21:570:22:00

has been granted around ?650,000 of government money,

0:22:000:22:10

over the last five years.

0:22:100:22:11

Some of the funding is used to employ several staff,

0:22:110:22:14

including the area UDA commander Denis Cunningham

0:22:140:22:17

as a community worker.

0:22:170:22:21

And this man, Ian McLaughlin, the Association's project manager

0:22:210:22:24

and a member of the local Ulster Political Research Group

0:22:240:22:29

the political advisors to the UDA.

0:22:290:22:33

We asked Lower Shankill Community Association, Mo Courtney,

0:22:330:22:36

Dee Coleman, Denis Cunningham, Matt Kincaid and Ian McLaughlin

0:22:360:22:41

if they wished to respond to the points in this programme.

0:22:410:22:46

None of them replied to our letters.

0:22:460:22:50

Tracey Coulter and her children were eventually forced

0:22:500:22:52

to leave the Shankill.

0:22:520:22:55

Their home was set on fire in December 2013, within 72 hours

0:22:550:23:00

of the court verdict against Mo Courtney.

0:23:000:23:04

The DUP and police quickly condemned the attack.

0:23:040:23:08

But Tracey says the police wouldn't name the UDA as responsible,

0:23:080:23:12

because they said they didn't have the evidence to do so.

0:23:120:23:17

And she also says political support for her quickly disappeared.

0:23:170:23:21

Days after the fire at her home, she met then DUP Social Development

0:23:210:23:24

Minister Nelson McCausland.

0:23:240:23:31

Basically what I wanted from Nelson McCausland

0:23:310:23:34

was I wanted to ask, I wanted his word, were,

0:23:340:23:36

were they, um, involved in funding the Lower Shankill

0:23:360:23:38

Community Association.

0:23:380:23:42

And basically sharing with him, that I don't think that

0:23:420:23:45

offices should be funded.

0:23:450:23:51

Tracey was effectively asking the Minister for Transparency

0:23:510:23:54

about how public money was being spent on the Association.

0:23:540:23:59

She says she asked Mr McCausland about the funding of the Association

0:23:590:24:03

and he said he would investigate and get back to her.

0:24:030:24:06

Three years later she's still waiting.

0:24:060:24:10

Mr McCausland is familiar with the community association.

0:24:100:24:15

Here he is on a visit to the Shankill in 2011,

0:24:150:24:19

pictured with Denis Cunningham, who was there in his role

0:24:190:24:23

as a community rep, as opposed to his role as a UDA commander.

0:24:230:24:28

On that occasion Mr McCausland was getting the Association's

0:24:280:24:31

input into future housing plans for the area.

0:24:310:24:36

In a statement, Mr McCausland said that during his meeting

0:24:360:24:40

with Tracey Coulter he advised he could not name the UDA

0:24:400:24:43

as responsible for the attack on her home until he got a PSNI

0:24:430:24:46

assessment that this was the case.

0:24:460:24:50

He added, Tracey had then told a newspaper the meeting with him

0:24:500:24:53

was "a waste of time".

0:24:530:24:57

And he decided any future meeting with her would be unwise,

0:24:570:25:00

as it "might well be misrepresented."

0:25:000:25:05

When he met Tracey Coulter, Mr McCausland's Department

0:25:050:25:08

of Social Development was funding the Association.

0:25:080:25:12

In fact, according to figures we requested under Freedom

0:25:120:25:17

of Information, the Department was paying the rent for the building

0:25:170:25:20

and all major staff costs.

0:25:200:25:23

We asked the Department, given Tracey's concerns

0:25:230:25:26

about the association's links to the UDA, if an investigation

0:25:260:25:29

into its funding has taken place.

0:25:290:25:35

It said.

0:25:350:25:37

It is aware of allegations of both criminal and paramilitary activity

0:25:370:25:40

taking place at Lower Shankill Community Association

0:25:400:25:43

and of PSNI investigations.

0:25:430:25:47

But it added it was satisfied that the specific allegations

0:25:470:25:50

were not connected with the community activity

0:25:500:25:52

supported by its funding.

0:25:520:25:55

The Department said it is not aware of anything that would put at risk

0:25:550:25:59

public funds being made available to the organisation.

0:25:590:26:04

It seems, as long as there is no misuse of public funds,

0:26:040:26:07

the department is happy to continue paying rent for offices which it

0:26:070:26:10

knows are allegedly linked to criminal and paramilitary activity.

0:26:100:26:15

While accepting that the police have investigated an assault

0:26:150:26:18

at the offices, the department doesn't say it has made its own

0:26:180:26:22

inquiries into that matter.

0:26:220:26:25

And it continues to fund the group.

0:26:250:26:30

Tracey Coulter's experience sounds very familiar and I think it's

0:26:300:26:32

really an indictment of the whole system.

0:26:320:26:35

I don't think, erm, public bodies and, erm,

0:26:350:26:38

politicians are frightened that the paramilitaries

0:26:380:26:40

are going to do something to them.

0:26:400:26:42

They don't do anything because they don't want to rock

0:26:420:26:45

the peace process boat and they want to continue

0:26:450:26:47

with the cosy relationship, erm, with these guys that

0:26:470:26:50

makes their life easy, that's what's at the bottom of it.

0:26:500:26:54

The recent independent investigation into disbanding paramilitary groups

0:26:540:26:58

recognised this situation.

0:26:580:27:02

But how did it suggest we change it?

0:27:020:27:06

The investigators said the door should remain open to those members

0:27:060:27:09

of the groups who truly want to move on and reintegrate into society.

0:27:090:27:15

They have called for barriers to ex-paramilitaries

0:27:150:27:18

and their families, in terms job opportunities, insurance

0:27:180:27:21

and travel to be removed.

0:27:210:27:24

They have also argued funding of community groups linked

0:27:240:27:27

to paramilitaries is a risk still worth taking, but it has to be

0:27:270:27:30

more strictly monitored.

0:27:300:27:36

You need good accountability and transparency and legitimacy.

0:27:360:27:40

Don't give it to people who are known to be

0:27:400:27:43

gangsters and doing this for the wrong reasons.

0:27:430:27:46

But, in return for support, the disbandment panel wants groups

0:27:460:27:48

like the UDA to now move towards leaving the stage for good.

0:27:480:27:53

Critics say we have tried all this before and it hasn't worked.

0:27:530:27:59

Well, I thought the panel report was a load of old guff.

0:27:590:28:02

I mean we have been throwing money at this problem endlessly

0:28:020:28:05

for the past two decades.

0:28:050:28:06

What I think we need is for the police and

0:28:060:28:09

the state to get serious and to just do their job.

0:28:090:28:13

The politicians have to let the police follow the evidence no

0:28:130:28:16

matter where that leads.

0:28:160:28:19

And certainly depressed areas of Northern Ireland do need funding,

0:28:190:28:23

they do need cash injections but they don't need that money

0:28:230:28:25

going through the prism of paramilitary hands.

0:28:250:28:30

But the independent investigators say they've a new get-tough policy

0:28:300:28:34

for those paramilitaries who do not take advantage of this moment

0:28:340:28:38

to end their activity.

0:28:380:28:42

Everyone is now beginning to realise that, er, paramilitary organisations

0:28:420:28:46

are not simply going to wither away.

0:28:460:28:52

And they're going to have to be tackled, and those who are moving

0:28:520:28:55

to a different place need to move, and move quickly.

0:28:550:28:57

And those who aren't need to be dealt with.

0:28:570:28:59

There needs to be a zero tolerance, and there needs to be whatever

0:28:590:29:03

legislation or regulatory powers, that need to come into place.

0:29:030:29:05

To move forward, er, aggressively, towards the dismantling,

0:29:050:29:10

frustrating and disrupting of these organised crime groups.

0:29:100:29:16

Around ?25 million will be available to law enforcement agencies,

0:29:160:29:20

to try to achieve this dismantling of the groups

0:29:200:29:23

and their organised criminality.

0:29:230:29:27

But will police and politicians see this task through?

0:29:270:29:33

The disbandment panel report warns that politicians, the PSNI

0:29:330:29:38

and public bodies often work too closely with the paramilitaries

0:29:380:29:45

or their community representatives and this is a major problem.

0:29:450:29:47

During our investigation into the Lower Shankill Community

0:29:470:29:50

Association we were told that police attend monthly meetings

0:29:500:29:53

in the offices, along with other public agencies and politicians,

0:29:530:29:55

to discuss local issues.

0:29:550:29:58

And some local people have told us their perception is that the UDA

0:29:580:30:01

and PSNI police the area jointly.

0:30:010:30:11

The panel says that this situation "cannot become a permanent norm",

0:30:140:30:16

as it is damaging public confidence in the policing and justice system.

0:30:160:30:25

It has become almost an expedience, to deal with some of these senior

0:30:250:30:28

figures, to try to quell problems that have arisen.

0:30:280:30:34

That creates a situation within the communities, where

0:30:340:30:39

they seem to be the go to people.

0:30:390:30:41

And that has an effect on the notion of normal law and order,

0:30:410:30:44

within the communities.

0:30:440:30:46

When police officers are seen to be engaging with people

0:30:460:30:50

who are known in the communities, to be senior paramilitary figures.

0:30:500:30:53

Would it concern you?

0:30:530:30:57

Your community officers would be in the Lower Shankill Community

0:30:570:30:59

Association officers on a regular basis,

0:30:590:31:02

those officers are also, erm, frequented by UDA members,

0:31:020:31:05

and members of the public in lower Shankill are saying to us I'm not

0:31:050:31:09

going to go and speak to the police, the police

0:31:090:31:11

are in cahoots with the UDA.

0:31:110:31:14

Well we're not in cahoots with anyone, we will engage

0:31:140:31:16

with community groups, we do that right across

0:31:160:31:18

Northern Ireland.

0:31:180:31:26

The Lower Shankill Community Association is with the police,

0:31:260:31:32

with the housing executive, with other government

0:31:320:31:34

organisations....

0:31:340:31:35

To make communities safer and better.

0:31:350:31:36

None of that is acquiescing to the UDA, none of that is

0:31:360:31:39

legitimising the UDA.

0:31:390:31:40

What we're doing is trying to do what we call policing

0:31:400:31:43

with the community.

0:31:430:31:44

Do you accept that's undermining public confidence

0:31:440:31:46

in your force when...

0:31:460:31:47

When the public sees those relationships?

0:31:470:31:56

Well, I'm not sure that it is because first of all, we'll only

0:31:560:31:59

engage with people er who alleged to have these paramilitary

0:31:590:32:01

connections for a policing purpose.

0:32:010:32:02

So, whatever the engagement is in practical policing

0:32:020:32:04

terms to assist.

0:32:040:32:05

With parades and protest activity there will always be a healthy

0:32:050:32:08

distance between us and people like that so that we can do our duty

0:32:080:32:11

as police officers.

0:32:110:32:12

But the independent panel does not agree.

0:32:120:32:15

It has warned that the PSNI needs to distance itself

0:32:150:32:17

from paramilitaries in communities like the Shankill because

0:32:170:32:23

it does potentially compromise the rule of law.

0:32:230:32:27

The police may have their own reasons for doing that,

0:32:270:32:30

but as we say in the report, there comes a time when that

0:32:300:32:34

umbilical cord that was once needed, perhaps for them to get intelligence

0:32:340:32:38

or to have some kind of control over what is going to happen next week,

0:32:380:32:42

it keeps everything peaceful, it needs to be broken.

0:32:420:32:45

Others believe police are taking the flak for the situation

0:32:450:32:48

on the ground and it is a lack of political leadership at Stormont

0:32:480:32:51

to take on the paramilitaries that is the real problem.

0:32:510:32:57

I think it's a fair assessment to say that some people

0:32:570:33:03

in paramilitary groups have direct links to some people associated

0:33:030:33:08

with the two parties of government, and that is clearly a major issue.

0:33:080:33:11

David Ford says while the Fresh Start Agreement said it will tackle

0:33:110:33:15

paramilitarism, nothing concrete has yet happened.

0:33:150:33:18

I would like to see a real, genuine action plan,

0:33:180:33:21

investments and timescales, so we know that the culture

0:33:210:33:23

is changing, and that those who are standing up for lawful

0:33:230:33:30

activity are being supported, and that requires

0:33:300:33:31

leadership from the top.

0:33:310:33:36

Based on what I've seen so far, I find it difficult to see

0:33:360:33:40

that the Executive is actually going to live up to the responsibilities

0:33:400:33:42

accepted a year ago.

0:33:420:33:44

I don't want anyone under any illusion as to what my determination

0:33:440:33:47

is to deal with these.

0:33:470:33:48

There is a fork in the road coming.

0:33:480:33:50

It is coming up very soon, I want to see the police

0:33:500:33:53

moving in and taking these people out of society.

0:33:530:33:55

But if there are those who are deciding that they want

0:33:550:33:58

to move away from violence and intimidation and paramilitarism,

0:33:580:34:00

then we will work with them.

0:34:000:34:01

One week after the Fresh Start Agreement was signed,

0:34:010:34:05

last year, Aaron McMahon, whom we reported on earlier this

0:34:050:34:08

year, was in his workshop, beneath the family home

0:34:080:34:12

in the Clandeboye area of Bangor when two masked men burst

0:34:120:34:15

in and attacked him with a hammer.

0:34:150:34:18

I just turned round at the last minute and both guys were sort

0:34:180:34:21

of on top of me then.

0:34:210:34:23

It's really just a case of trying to protect yourself as best you can.

0:34:230:34:26

The wife was screaming, the kids were squealing,

0:34:260:34:28

crying, it was a complete mess, you know.

0:34:280:34:30

Aaron fought off the attackers and suffered minor head injuries.

0:34:300:34:36

The attack came after Clandeboye Village Community Association,

0:34:360:34:39

of which he is chairman, had opposed North Down UDA erecting

0:34:390:34:46

paramilitary flags in the area and taking over their 11th

0:34:460:34:48

night community bonfire.

0:34:480:34:52

The leader of this paramilitary faction took great offence

0:34:520:34:54

at the stand I was forced to take through lack of leadership

0:34:540:34:57

from the politicians and the police.

0:34:570:34:59

That paramilitary leader is this man, the Commander of North Down

0:34:590:35:01

UDA, David Stitt.

0:35:010:35:09

Stitt is also the Chief Executive of leading community organisation

0:35:090:35:11

Charter NI.

0:35:110:35:13

A position which comes with a public salary.

0:35:130:35:15

The Board of Charter NI has said it has full confidence in all staff

0:35:150:35:19

within the organisation and does not condone any illegal activity.

0:35:190:35:25

David Stitt has told Spotlight he rejects the allegations

0:35:250:35:28

against him and says his work for Charter NI is positively

0:35:280:35:32

influencing people away from involvement

0:35:320:35:33

in paramilitary life.

0:35:330:35:37

Two men were charged with assault on Aaron.

0:35:370:35:41

But, like Tracey Coulter before him, he is furious that the PSNI refused

0:35:410:35:44

to treat the case as paramilitary linked.

0:35:440:35:48

He believes that to have done so would have upset the relationship

0:35:480:35:51

the PSNI has with North Down UDA.

0:35:510:35:56

Too sensitive.

0:35:560:35:59

It would upset this sort of paid for pretend peace that everyone has

0:35:590:36:02

sort of bought into has been sold.

0:36:020:36:04

They don't want to jeopardise that.

0:36:040:36:10

Give us a hand with this table, love.

0:36:100:36:12

In June this year charges in the case were dropped due

0:36:120:36:14

to insufficient evidence.

0:36:140:36:16

Meanwhile, intimidation of Aaron's family by some local UDA members has

0:36:160:36:19

continued this summer.

0:36:190:36:24

Aaron's daughter Gaynor recently called the PSNI after being followed

0:36:240:36:27

in a car by a known UDA man.

0:36:270:36:32

He says police gave her several options for what they could do,

0:36:320:36:35

and one was that an officer could speak to the man's UDA boss

0:36:350:36:38

to get it to stop.

0:36:380:36:42

The PSNI have told Spotlight no such offer was made.

0:36:420:36:49

But Aaron and his family are adamant it was and angry about this denial.

0:36:490:36:55

Tracey Coulter and Aaron McMahon have said to us that

0:36:550:37:00

when they were attacked by the UDA your force

0:37:000:37:02

refused to name the UDA as being responsible.

0:37:020:37:04

Why is that?

0:37:040:37:06

They feel totally let down by your police force.

0:37:060:37:09

Well, erm, it's always difficult whenever you get into talking

0:37:090:37:11

about specific cases, erm, but er we will name

0:37:110:37:13

organisations when there is an investigational

0:37:130:37:14

or an operational reason to do so.

0:37:140:37:24

Is it not a societal reason to do so?

0:37:250:37:35

Well, if there is, that's one for the politicians

0:37:360:37:39

because our job is to, er, secure evidence and bring

0:37:390:37:41

people before the courts.

0:37:410:37:45

I feel very much like a sitting duck Stephen and have done

0:37:450:37:48

for a while now.

0:37:480:37:51

The police, in my opinion have become so weak in this and issues

0:37:510:37:54

like this and these groups have become so strong

0:37:540:37:57

that they are almost untouchable.

0:37:570:37:58

When Spotlight reported on Aaron McMahon earlier this year,

0:37:580:38:01

for legal reasons we did not mention the hammer attack.

0:38:010:38:05

But we did name David Stitt as the commander of the UDA faction

0:38:050:38:08

who had been intimidating people in Clandeboye.

0:38:080:38:12

And we also told the dup Aaron felt it had abandoned his community

0:38:120:38:15

in the face of this intimidation because the party didn't

0:38:150:38:17

want to upset ties they have with elements of the UDA.

0:38:170:38:24

The DUP denied this was the case.

0:38:240:38:27

But last week, this was First Minister Arlene Foster.

0:38:270:38:33

Standing on her right is UDA commander, David Stitt at a Charter

0:38:330:38:36

NI event in East Belfast.

0:38:360:38:41

She was approving the award of a ?1.7 million government

0:38:410:38:44

contract to the community group.

0:38:440:38:49

You're pictured last week with UDA commander David Stitt,

0:38:490:38:52

he is in charge of faction in North Down that's been

0:38:520:38:59

intimidating members of the local community and you're

0:38:590:39:00

the First Minister of this country and your pictured with him,

0:39:000:39:03

surely you're turning a blind eye.

0:39:030:39:05

No.

0:39:050:39:06

If you're being pictured with that man?

0:39:060:39:08

I'm not turning a blind eye.

0:39:080:39:10

What I'm doing is I'm trying to encourage people to move away

0:39:100:39:13

from their past.

0:39:130:39:14

I mean, for goodness sake, we're in a mandatory coalition

0:39:140:39:17

with Sinn Fein who are part of the republican movement

0:39:170:39:19

who were killing people, killing people of my

0:39:190:39:24

community, for many years.

0:39:240:39:27

Are you seriously suggesting that I walk away from the loyalist

0:39:270:39:30

community and not try to bring them along and try to get them away

0:39:300:39:33

from whatever past they've been involved in?

0:39:330:39:43

But it is in the present that Aaron feels Fresh Start is "empty words."

0:39:430:39:46

He and his community association were prepared to take a stand

0:39:460:39:49

against UDA intimidation in their area.

0:39:490:39:50

But he says politicians and police have undermined his

0:39:500:39:53

faith in law and order.

0:39:530:39:59

Would you do it all again, Aaron?

0:39:590:40:03

I don't think so, Stephen.

0:40:030:40:05

I think too high a price has been paid.

0:40:050:40:07

Especially for my family, in order for us to keep up

0:40:070:40:11

this facade of peace, I think we are sort of seen

0:40:110:40:14

as collateral damage in many respects and that's a sad indictment

0:40:140:40:18

of where we are in 2016.

0:40:180:40:22

Once more, Stormont is planning to pay paramilitaries to go away.

0:40:220:40:25

There's no doubt previous efforts have strengthened the peace process

0:40:250:40:29

but there are those who argue they've effectively legitimised

0:40:290:40:34

these groups, giving them a new kind of community control.

0:40:340:40:36

So, is this really a new dawn, or simply history repeating itself?

0:40:360:40:43

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