The UK’s answer to the FBI must be brought in to tackle a UDA gang accused of holding an entire community to ransom, it was claimed last night.
The intelligence-led National Crime Agency (NCA) has been urged to back the PSNI to quell loyalist tensions in Carrickfergus, Co Antrim.
The PSNI bill to police a bitter ongoing dispute between the South East Antrim UDA and a local family in the Castlemara estate has topped £1.6million.
And Ulster Unionist MLA Roy Beggs said the PSNI needed help from the NCA.
He said: “As a result of the ongoing dispute in South East Antrim the PSNI have been forced to carry out numerous searches and maintain a police presence in the area.
“There has been a sizeable police presence over the past few days during searches in Greenisland and Carrickfergus.
“The Policing Board were recently informed of four additional arrests.
“The police must be supported in following up information of criminal activity.
“The £1.6million in extra policing costs is from limited public resources which might otherwise have been better spent.
“There have been up to 60 death threats made which are disrupting the lives of the individuals and their families. The local Castlemara Community Association, which had been carrying out educational and health activities, is no longer functioning.
“As a result, an already disadvantaged community is being further disadvantaged.”
He added: “The paramilitary organised crime gangs must go away or be forced to end their criminal activity by law enforcement.
“I would urge for further specialist law enforcement activity to follow the money raised through crime and handled by gang leaders.
“I cannot understand the lengthy delay with the Northern Ireland Executive failing to engage the National Crime Agency through ‘Fresh Start’ funding.
“There must also be greater transparency and accountability to prevent support from public funds for those who continue to be involved in paramilitarism.”
Earlier this week, Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Martin said police were extremely concerned about the situation in Carrickfergus.
Mr Martin said the South East Antrim UDA was a sizeable organisation comprising “several hundred” members.
He said a police presence was required in the estate on a daily basis – something that was draining funds and diverting resources from other priorities.
On Friday detectives charged a 37-year-old man with possession of a firearm and ammunition with intent to endanger life.
He is due to appear at Belfast Magistrates Court today. As is normal procedure all charges will be reviewed by the Public Prosecution Service.
Four men were arrested in the Greenisland and Carrickfergus areas last Wednesday in relation to the same incident. Three of the men, aged 26, 31 and 33 ,were released pending a report to prosecutors and a man, aged 33, was released unconditionally.
A detective inspector said: “Officers continue to be proactive in policing Castlemara estate and the wider Carrickfergus area in order to reassure local residents and above all to keep people safe.
“As our investigations continue we would appeal to anyone with information about criminal activity in the area to contact police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.”
Last year the NCA was brought in to investigate the North Antim UDA amid accusations of murder and drug dealing.
It was blamed for a spate of so-called punishment shootings, including the killing of father-of-five Brian McIlhagga in Ballymoney, Co Antrim.
The UK-wide crime-fighting body finally came into effect in Northern Ireland in May of last year after political wrangling over its accountability.
A senior PSNI commander said the NCA would be helping the PSNI “to tackle what is largely an organised crime group up there who are involved in the same range of commodities up there other organised crime groups are involved in”.
He added: “This group (North Antrim) is no different, they just happen to operate under a very convenient badge to try and give them some legitimacy.
“We bring every tool we have to the table to tackle them and the NCA will be one of those tools.”
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