Billy Hutchinson: I see no ‘hidden hand’ behind loyalist violence
PUP chief Billy Hutchinson said he saw no “hidden hand” behind the violence that engulfed loyalist districts this month.
Sources have claimed that the Council of Loyalist Communities, which represents the UVF, UDA and Red Hand Commando groups, no longer has any influence over some paramilitary members.
The coordination group was established in 2015 and recently withdrew its support for the Good Friday agreement on the Northern Ireland Protocol.
He denied that any of his “associated groups” were involved in the recent unrest.
Hundreds of young people have been implicated in the mess in the north.
Concerns have been expressed that the violence could spawn new gangs in loyalist districts.
Since Prince Philip’s death, loyalists have called off all protests, which were linked to anger over Northern Ireland protocol, the decision not to prosecute members of Sinn Féin for attending Bobby Storey’s funeral and two-tier policing allegations.
Mr. Hutchinson was a member of a “tartan gang” in the 1970s before joining the UVF.
The tartan gangs were made up of young people in union areas and many of those involved joined paramilitary groups.
The Belfast councilor said he saw no evidence to suggest that young people are forming new gangs or that organizations are seeking to radicalize young people.
“I’m obviously concerned about all of this, but I don’t feel like people think that way. I don’t know what will happen in October when we are out of this grace period, ”he said.
“I don’t see any hidden hands.”
The PUP man said the current political situation is different from that of the 1970s.
“These gangs will only appear if the policy does not work,” he said.
He added: “We have to work with young people.”
Dr Gareth Mulvenna, author of Tartan Gangs and Paramilitaries: The Loyalist Backlash, also said the situation “does not now stand comparison to the early 1970s”.
“The security situation is very different now,” he said.
He added that he believed the authorities could “crack down” any new gang that might emerge.