SDLP Policing Board member Dolores Kelly has said it is long past time paramilitary groups in the North left the stage for good.
She was speaking after the PSNI said they believed an attack on a bus in Newtownards last week was carried out by the UVF.
Upper Bann MLA Mrs Kelly said:
“There was never any excuse for paramilitary groups to be operating in the North, but that they are still in existence and attacking communities nearly 25 years on from the Good Friday Agreement beggars belief.
“This attack on a public bus was nothing to do with Brexit and all about these self-styled hard men flexing their muscles and exerting their toxic control over the local community. They don’t care about people in our communities, they don’t represent people in our communities and they only exist to further their own illict enterprises and feather their own nests.
“The question must be asked why these groups are still operating in this day and age. They still hold communities in their grip and leave local people living in fear and this needs to be addressed. In my role on the Policing Board I will continue to press for action to disband these groups once for all and end their influence on our society.”
SDLP Strangford representative Conor Houston said:
“I welcome the swift arrests that have been made in relation to this incident. The hijacking and burning of this bus last week was extremely distressing for the local community who do not want to see this type of activity in their area.
“My thoughts go out to the bus driver caught up in this horrendous incident. Nobody should be subject to this type of attack while going about their business or trying to do their job. The only purpose this served was to upset local people and take a bus used for travel to school, work, for hospital appointments and to see friends and family off our roads.
“The thugs behind this attack speak for nobody and I would call on them to desist this type of activity at once. People in Strangford want to live in peace as part of a shared society and incidents like this only harken back to bad old days that are better off forgotten.”