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16 August 2007 Edition

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Loyalist funding - Ritchie avoids making a decision

Sinn Féin MLA Alex Maskey commenting on the announcement by Minister Margaret Ritchie on loyalist funding has said that while many will have very serious concerns about the funding that Margaret Ritchie needs to take a decision about how public money is spent.
Maskey said:
“Two months ago Margaret Ritchie said she was going to stop this funding. Two months on and she is now saying that she is giving them another 2 months. This is not the decisive leadership that is required. It is public posturing.
“It is a fundamental mistake to link money for deprived loyalist communities to the behaviour of the UDA.
“Clearly the UDA needs to bring an end to their campaign of violence and intimidation that includes extortion and drug dealing. This violence is totally unacceptable and only damages the communities they claim to represent.
“The deep poverty that exists in many loyalist communities is well recognised; there is also poverty in many other communities. Alienation within working class Loyalist areas, which is linked to the abandonment of these areas by political unionism, is also well recognised.
“Where there is poverty, social exclusion and weak community infrastructure government obviously has a responsibility to act. Sinn Féin supports money going into deprived areas. However, funding must be based on objective need and be properly accounted for. Money for such areas is one thing but money for the UDA is another.
“This is fundamentally an issue about the future of the UDA.
“It is recognised that there are people within that community, within the UDA and UPRG, who are trying to achieve progress. But the violence, especially in recent weeks, undermines their credibility.”
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