South East Antrim (SEA) UDA still recruiting in the Newtownards area (The Irish News)

MEMBERS of the South East Antrim UDA have been holding families in the Newtownards area to ransom, with many living in terror as the paramilitary group actively recruit in north Down.

The breakaway UDA was responsible for an attack on a young family this week, in which a baby narrowly escaped injury.

Police are investigating links between recent attacks and extorting of money from a number of individuals and local businesses.

Residents of the area have complained that much of the activity is taking place “under the noses” of the PSNI.

Graffiti appeared during the week on walls directly facing the PSNI station in Newtownards saying ‘SEA UDA Number 1’.

On Thursday several houses and cars were attacked by members of the paramilitary group and bricks thrown through a front living window of a family home.

On Facebook, the PSNI said: “Our enquires lead us to believe that members of Newtownards based South East Antrim UDA were responsible for these attacks.

“They may well give their own warped explanation of why these attacks take place but I’m not sure what they achieve by terrorising children and babies in the sanctuary of their own home.”

In September a PSNI officer lost a notebook containing information on live investigations during searches in Newtownards linked to the South East Antrim UDA.

The notebook belonged to a female officer from the Paramilitary Crime Task Force.

Police confirmed to the Irish News at the the time that the notebook was lost and that “enquiries have been conducted to identify any potential risk”.

Follow up searches were carried out amid fears that loyalist paramilitary figures had access to the notes, with information relating to the PSNI officer and private citizens.

The organisation has also been recruiting in north Down, with the ranks swelling with young men, many of who were already involved in criminality and anti social behaviour.

The Paramilitary Crime Taskforce was launched in September 2017 and includes officers from the PSNI, the National Crime Agency and HM Revenue & Customs.

Plans to tackle paramilitary activity in Northern Ireland with a new task force were set out in the Fresh Start agreement almost two years ago.

However, up until now the specialist police unit has had limited success in the fight against organised loyalist criminality.


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