“The criminals must be dealt with by the PSNI.”

In the Sunday Life, Alan Murray has the latest developments in the attempts to rebrand the UDA and the disagreement between Tommy Kirkham, an elected independent councillor who supported the ‘not-so-good’ South East Antrim UDA’s Beyond Conflict £8miilion plan – which didn’t get the NIO’s approval – and Frankie Gallagher, an unelected representative of the UPRG, who supports the ‘good’ UDA’s plan, costing £1.2million – which did get the NIO’s approval.From the Sunday Life

Kirkham said that for nine months he had been vilified and told that he and others in the area had no support.

He said attempts had been made using the media to stain the characters of many loyalists in South East Antrim by labelling them as gangsters, extortionists and drug dealers who controlled property portfolios and ran brothels.

“There is criminality within all communities, but in South East Antrim there is no place for loyalist criminals, only loyalists. The criminals must be dealt with by the PSNI.

“We said in the past to Sir Hugh Orde, if you pursue loyalists for being loyalists then we will protest at the very highest level, but if you pursue loyalists for criminality then you have our full support,” he said.

Kirkham said that Protestant areas across Northern Ireland had been neglected by the Government.

But senior UPRG representative, Frankie Gallagher, hit out at his former colleague’s claims.

Added Mr Gallagher: “If these people think they can sit in splendid isolation and ignore or fail to show leadership in dealing with criminality by merely passing the responsibility on to the police, they are out of touch with reality.

“An example of this is when the Shoukris had nowhere to go. It was Tommy Kirkham who gave them sanctuary and now the same gang around these people are robbing Larne. Our reports on Tommy Kirkham’s oration, which was supposed to be a memorial service for a fallen comrade, was that it was politicised and disgraceful.

“A call has gone out to the good members of south east Antrim from the UDA. Kirkham or anyone else will not threaten these men.

“The view of the organisation of which this man is no longer a member is that we cannot allow paramilitary structures to be left for the use of gangsters and criminals.”

The Shoukri case is interesting for many reasons.. not least that during his numerous bail hearings the court was told that he was under threat from the ‘good’ “mainstream UDA”

There’s an additional report at the Sunday Life link [scroll down], in which Tommy Kirkham claims that police have warned him that he is under threat from “a paramilitary organisation”. And that the IMC will have an additional section in its report next time.

Kirkham was one of two men the Inner Council said it had “expelled” from the UDA last month, but the councillor says he was not a member of an illegal organisation.

Last week he led a delegation of representatives from eight areas in South East Antrim who told the IMC’s full panel that they wanted help to bring about an end to all paramilitary activities in their area.

The group, which supports the Beyond Conflict initiative to dismantle paramilitary structures, said it understood the UDA in South East Antrim was prepared to consider meeting General John de Chastelain to discuss the possible decommissioning of weapons.

It is believed the group’s approach to the IMC angered the UDA’s Inner Council, which is led by South Belfast Brigadier Jackie McDonald, and which wants to be the sole representative of the entire UDA structure. It successfully removed the previous leadership of the UDA’s North Belfast Brigade, once controlled by Andre Shoukri, and planned to remove the leadership of the organisation in South East Antrim and install a new figurehead.

But so far this has been resisted in the area and the UDA remains under the control of the leaders who approved the meeting with the IMC.

The move means that when the next IMC Report is written, there will be a separate chapter created to refer to the UDA in South East Antrim as a separate entity, a development likely to further enrage the Inner Council faction.

That would be this Jackie McDonald, btw..

And here are Tommy Kirkham and Frankie Gallagher together in happier times 2003.. when the BBC noted – “The UDA leadership is publicly known but the organisation says it intends to become “faceless”.”

As for the post title.. if only..

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