It is my understanding that, contrary to claims on Slugger O’Toole, the Sunday World’s story was not confirmed by a photograph. Indeed it is based on the supposed testimony of one witness, an unnamed pastor. A pastor in North Belfast who clearly believed he could be identified as the source has contacted the Sunday World to deny any involvement in the story.
It just goes to demonstrate that these type of smear stories, which appear particularly frequently in newspapers around election time, should be treated with utmost caution.
Jim Nicholson’s opposition to paramilitaries is on record.
"It is also deeply worrying that the IMC report again points to the evidence that paramilitary organisations - both republican and loyalist - are involved in ongoing criminality. Such crime holds back our entire society. Again, the PSNI need the full support of our entire community if this threat is to be confronted and overcome"
Update: The UUP has issued the following statement.
Over the past few days a number of newspapers have alleged that a ‘UDA commander’ or ‘UDA Brigadier’ was helping to put up posters for Jim Nicholson MEP in North Belfast.
This is not true.
Two community groups---the Tigers Bay Concerned Residents Association and Community Voice---have been working very closely with the Ulster Unionist Party over the past few years in the area, addressing socio-economic issues. Both groups have also been working closely with the PSNI, local churches and a wide range of other community groups.
The Ulster Unionist Party has also been engaging with the Ulster Political Research Group (UPRG), seeking to persuade Loyalist paramilitaries to decommission and to direct themselves towards democracy and community politics.
Members of the Tigers Bay and Community Voice groups volunteered to put up posters for Jim Nicholson. These groups have no links with the UDA.
No UDA ‘Commander’ or ‘Brigadier’ put up posters for Jim Nicholson.
Jim Nicholson commented:
“The work being done by groups like Community Voice and TBCRA is vitally important if Northern Ireland is ever to move forward. It is important, too, that democratic political parties do everything they can to encourage people in these areas to participate in normal, everyday politics. And that means proving to them that normal, everyday politics works and addresses their concerns.
“The Ulster Unionist Party has been at the forefront of these efforts and we will continue to do everything it can to ensure that paramilitarism (from whatever source) becomes a thing of the past; and that community politics is built around the needs and concerns of ordinary people.
"The Ulster Unionist Party has been unstinting in its view that loyalist organisations must decommission and must cease all criminal activities. Most recently I repeated this call in the aftermath of the IMC Report. I want to see all sections of opinion in Northern Ireland embrace exclusively political and democratic politics. This means leaving behind - fully and permanently - the violence and criminality of the past".