Lagan Valley DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson has said that while the party has been able to work with the UDA to help it move away from paramilitarism, the UVF is “a real problem” and has gone backwards over the last decade.
The comments are being viewed as some of the most candid and specific public statements from a prominent unionist politician about the situation within the loyalist paramilitary world.
The Lagan Valley MP made the comments during a panel discussion as part of the John Hewitt International Summer School in Armagh.
“Truthfully, we have a real problem with the UVF,” said Mr Donaldson. “They will not do business with us because they want to be a political party. The PUP wants to take our territory; they are up against the DUP. So the UVF do not cooperate.
“In truth, with the UDA we get a lot more cooperation at local level, in dealing with the transition, in the transformation in those loyalist communities, because the UDA doesn’t have political ambitions. We do need people in the element - the UVF in particular - to have the vision to see beyond the narrow ground of the PUP and their political aspirations.”
In a statement, the PUP said that it was “disappointed” at Sir Jeffrey’s comments and would “welcome any engagements” which would lead to benefit for working class areas.