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Laird challenged to come clean over paramilitary links

9 June, 2005

Responding to remarks made by the Unionist peer John Laird in the House of Lords regarding Irish businessman Phil Flynn and others, Sinn Féin Assembly member Alex Maskey has again accused Laird of cowardly and deceitful behaviour and challenged him to come clean over his links with unionist paramilitaries.

Mr Maskey said:

"This is the second occasion in the last number of weeks that John Laird has hidden behind the farce of British parliamentary privilege to make scurrilous and unfounded allegations against Irish citizens safe in the knowledge that this archaic law prevents individuals from seeking legal redress.

"John Lairds rant in front of his unelected and indeed unelectable colleagues was the action of a political coward. No doubt Laird like the unionists before him who have hidden behind parliamentary privilege in the past will point blank refuse to repeat these allegations in public. The fact that has so far refused to publicly repeat these allegations demonstrates that he knows there that he would face serious legal consequences as a result of making these unfounded claims.

"Many nationalists remember John Laird and his leadership role along with the UDA and other unionist paramilitary gangs in bringing widespread disruption and terror to the six counties during the Ulster Workers Strike in the early 1970s. Laird was also part of the old failed Stormont regime which governed the six counties with a mix of fear, repression and political gerrymandering. I doubt that Laird would come clean over his own links with unionist paramilitaries. Given his background it will come as no surprise that Laird has again chosen a cowardly and deceitful course of action." ENDS

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