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PSNI did not meet with UVF over bonfire tensions

CONTROVERSIAL: The Eleventh Night bonfire at Avoniel Leisure Centre CONTROVERSIAL: The Eleventh Night bonfire at Avoniel Leisure Centre
By Staff Reporter

THE PSNI say they did not meet with senior loyalists including the UVF during recent tensions around bonfires in East Belfast.

In a lengthy statement issued on Tuesday evening, Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd dismissed reports that police negotiated with loyalists in relation to the controversial bonfires at Avoniel Leisure Centre and Lismore Street.

“PSNI will routinely work with community representatives to find resolutions to local issues. At Avoniel and other bonfire sites officers came into contact with local people present there, including senior loyalists. This does not constitute formal engagement and no meetings took place between police and members of the UVF.

“I want to make this very clear we did not meet or negotiate with individuals from loyalist groupings or involve them in our policing decision making.

“Policing with the community is at the core of what we do at the PSNI and therefore officers come into contact with local people all the time. There has been reference by media that police were negotiating with senior loyalists regarding the policing operation. This is simply not the case and no meeting took place.

“The PSNI is committed to tackling organised crime gangs and paramilitaries and the East Belfast UVF remains a key focus for investigation. Since January this year, we have had significant success – 18 people arrested and 16 of them charged before the courts as a result of PCTF operations targeting the East Belfast UVF.

“We have also taken a significant quantity of drugs off the streets to protect our communities and seized a substantial amount of cash which has resulted from criminal activity. We will continue to arrest members of the East Belfast UVF and we will continue to put them before the courts.”

Sinn Féin Policing spokesperson Gerry Kelly MLA called on the PSNI to follow through on its pledge to crack down on the UVF with all its powers.

“The East Belfast UVF were heavily involved in the Avoniel bonfire. It is a crime gang involved in everything from drug-dealing, racketeering, sexual assault and murder, so it is not some kind of cultural or community organisation. It needs to be put out of business and the new PSNI Chief Constable vowed to do precisely that when he came into the job.
“Simon Byrne was clear that the UVF would not be tolerated and that the PSNI would go after them with all of their powers.
“Those words need to be followed by action because the East Belfast UVF is a scourge on communities. People don’t want to see the PSNI sitting down and doing meetings with the UVF, they want to see them taken off the streets and put before the courts.”

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