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Politicians threatened by loyalist gang after INM journalists warned


Doug Beattie

Doug Beattie

Doug Beattie

Northern Ireland politicians who spoke out against threats made to INM journalists have themselves been threatened by loyalist paramilitaries.

Police contacted UUP leader Steve Aiken, his party colleague the Mid-Ulster MLA Doug Beattie, the SDLP MLA Patsy McGlone and Alliance MP Stephen Farry, warning of a "credible threat" from loyalists.

It comes after the four politicians, and others, spoke out against threats made to 'Sunday Life' and 'Sunday World' journalists.

There was widespread disgust yesterday as news of the threats spread on social media. Amnesty International described it as an "attack on democracy".

'Sunday Life' and 'Sunday World' journalists were targeted because of exposés in both titles about UDA involvement in criminality, drug dealing and involvement in the January murder of Glen Quinn in Carrickfergus.

Police visited the journalists' homes during the early hours of Friday morning, with one being told of a potential under-car booby-trap attack.

Peter Vandermeersch, publisher at Independent News and Media (INM) which owns the titles, said "threats against journalists should not be tolerated in any free society".

"It is depressing that thugs still believe they can silence the press through intimidation. We will continue to publish stories that shed light in dark corners," he said.

Séamus Dooley, assistant general secretary at the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), said: "Any attempt to silence politicians is an affront to democracy."

Mr Aiken said: "We must stand up for freedom of speech and we cannot allow our hard-fought principles of democracy to ever be undermined by threats of violence or intimidation."

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Mr McGlone, Deputy Speaker at the Assembly, said he refused to be intimidated and neither he, nor the journalists who were threatened, will be silenced.

"This is not the first time I've been threatened by paramilitaries but I can assure those responsible, I will not be silenced, censored or intimidated by faceless thugs," he said.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood MP said: "Those responsible for this threat obviously don't know Patsy McGlone. He will not be broken or silenced by those intent on intimidating him and others."

The South East Antrim UDA controls turf stretching 30km from Larne to north Belfast, along with pockets of Newtownards. It is considered one of Northern Ireland's most dangerous organised crime gangs.

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