POLICE have refused to deny claims made by a Coleraine based councillor that 32 people in the Ballymoney and wider North Antrim area have been spoken to about their safety over the last 12 days.
Describing the numbers involved as 'unprecedented' PUP Cllr Russell Watton claims that police are telling people that the threat comes from Loyalist paramilitaries, a claim he says is false. He claims that Special Branch are involved in a 'dirty tricks campaign' to discredit Loyalism. Speaking, to The Chronicle, Cllr Watton said: “Since the beginning of the month police have contacted 32 people in the Ballymoney, Ballybogy and wider North Antrim area, in relation to threats to their safety purporting to be coming from Loyalist paramilitaries or criminal gangs associated with Loyalist paramilitaries, they cannot be more specific.”
NO COMMON DENOMINATOR
He claimed that a senior police officer confirmed it to him last week. “32 is un-precedented, even at the height of the troubles.
There is no common denominator between the people who are purported to be under threat, a wide range of people, all types, all groups. Some had tenuous links with drugs, users or former users, others never touched drugs.
Some were former paramilitaries, some had never been paramilitaries, a number of them were women, different people with the same name are on the list.” Cllr Watton went on: “These threats are not coming from any main stream Loyalist paramilitary organisation. Who is orchestrating this, what is the purpose?” he wanted to know.
“The feeling is that it's the 'dirty tricks brigade' – Special Branch, trying to create dissension among a broad Loyalist community and attempt to criminalize Loyalism and get people at each other's throats. It is being orchestrated to give Loyalism a bad name.
“But if they are trying to create dissension it has backfired, people are coming to me and I am telling them there is no threat from Loyalists!”
For more see this week's Ballycastle Chronicle