Northern Ireland

Charter NI: People linked to organisation involved in recent paramilitary activity, say police

Charter NI
Image caption Charter NI, a community-based organisation in east Belfast, was awarded a £1.7m grant by the executive

People linked to east Belfast community organisation Charter NI have been involved in recent paramilitary activity, says a senior PSNI officer.

Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Martin told The Nolan Show the activity had taken place "in the past year".

Charter NI received £1.7m from the Social Investment Fund and said it was seeking an urgent meeting with police.

It said it "would take whatever action we deem necessary as a result of the information provided at that meeting".

Asked whether people connected to Charter were currently in the UDA - a loyalist paramilitary organisation formed in 1971 - were engaged in paramilitary activity, ACC Martin said: "Certainly there are, there may be an individual or individuals connected to Charter who have certainly been recently active.

"Charter as an organisation, we have seen, do good work on the ground but clearly there are connections within that organisation to the UDA.

In a statement, Charter NI said: "The consistent position of the board of Charter NI is that we do not condone illegal or criminal activity of any kind.

"We reaffirm our support for any prosecution brought by the PSNI of any person were there is evidence of involvement in illegal activity.

Image caption Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Martin made his comments on the BBC's Nolan Show

"The comments made by the ACC come as a surprise to us particularly as we have regular involvement with PSNI officers in a number of our projects who have given no indication of concerns about current paramilitary activity by an individual or individuals connected with Charter NI."

The Social Investment Fund (SIF) was set up by the Stormont Executive to deliver social change.

The fund supports a range of projects across Northern Ireland, from improving employability, reducing fuel poverty and education and early years initiatives.

Image caption In a statement, the Executive Office said it would be in contact with the PSNI to seek further clarification on ACC Martin's comments

In total, the fund amounts to £80m of Northern Ireland taxpayers' money.

In a statement, the Executive Office said: "This is not an insignificant comment by Assistant Chief Constable Martin. We will be in contact with the PSNI to seek further clarification.

"Where there is evidence of criminal activity, we expect the police to investigate and bring those responsible before the courts.

"Courts and jail are the only place for anyone involved in paramilitarism.

"All those associated with Charter or any community enterprise must make a clear choice between paramilitarism and legitimate community work. There can be no acceptance of or ambivalence towards illegal activity."

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