The East Belfast Community Initiative (EBCI) have released a statement in response to an article carried in today’s Sunday Life which made a range of baseless allegations about east Belfast loyalists and alleged criminal links to Dublin-based crime gangs.
A spokesperson for EBCI told Unionist Voice: “Today’s article in the Sunday Life was the lowest form of ‘journalism’ imaginable. It was not only publication contempt on an industrial scale, but an exercise in using malicious rumours to fill pages.”
The article comes at a time when many of those named are facing a live criminal case and as such is wholly prejudicial and is clearly a matter which the Attorney General will have to investigate. Given the seriousness of the prejudice caused to the persons named it is understood that those affected will demand that the Attorney General commences proceedings against the author of the article, carried under the name ‘Sarah Henderson’. Ms Henderson does not appear to have any social media presence or previous media employment.
The EBCI reiterated their opposition to all forms of criminality saying “we support the pursuit of crime in all its forms, and that includes drug dealing. We are unequivocal about that. But those persons accused of criminal offences are entitled to the protection of the law and to be afforded the presumption of innocence.”
The loyalist conflict transformation group further highlighted how the poor standard of journalism had ensured that none of the persons accused could ever receive a fair trial anywhere in Northern Ireland. They said “today’s Sunday Life article shredded the presumption of innocence for all those persons and committed publication contempt on such an outrageous scale that it’s hard to imagine any credible publication could have got it past their lawyers.”
The group also confirmed that they will be writing to the PSNI asking that they provide answers as to whether they briefed the Sunday Life and whether they concur with the allegations attributed to them in the publication. The statement said;
“The comments within the article are attributed to the PSNI. East Belfast Community Initiative will tomorrow be writing to the PSNI to ask them to clarify this issue and explain whether their officers have indeed been passing the information attributed to them to the Sunday Life and/or whether their assessment places any credibility on the allegations made within the Sunday Life article.
“If the PSNI deny a role in this story and/or distance themselves from the allegations, then the burden will shift back to the publication to explain precisely where their story came from and the public interest in publishing such maliciously contrived rumours.”
The lengthy statement then went on to make clear the groups support for a free press, but argued that the media’s role comes with responsibility. It continued;
“We support the right of a free press to pursue and publish stories in the public interest. We most certainly do not support the type of anonymous ‘journalism’ that penned today’s Sunday Life article.
“The agenda is clear- it is to present all loyalists in east Belfast as drug dealing criminals as a means of creating a narrative to support targeting those whose political viewpoints are deemed unhelpful to the ‘process’.”
Concluding the statement the group called on those who wish to challenge loyalism in east Belfast to step forward and engage publically and to have the debate.
“Let those skulking about in the darkness, aided by those writing anonymous articles, come into the open and have the debate. The EBCI are up for the public debate and to address anyone who wishes to challenge us or the transformation work of east Belfast loyalists.
“We are not afraid of public debate and to articulate our viewpoints. If others have neither the gumption nor the intellectual capability to face us in that arena then that tells you all you need to know about the impurity of their wicked agenda.”