Illegal money lending used as a means to control and exploit vulnerable people

Date published: 14 June 2021

“Illegal money lenders don’t care about their victims, they are only interested in exerting control and exploiting vulnerable people for their own gain,” Justice Minister Naomi Long has said.

She was speaking as The Northern Ireland Executive Programme to Tackle Paramilitary Activity, Criminality and Organised Crime launched its latest ‘Ending the Harm’ public awareness campaign, which will focus on how paramilitary gangs use illegal money lending as a means to control and exploit vulnerable people.  

 The campaign launches by telling the story of how a young single mother’s situation deteriorates rapidly once she borrows money from an illegal lender. 

  The campaign includes a TV ad which will go live after 9pm tonight (Monday 14 June), a poster that will run across a selection of outdoor advertising sites from today and a radio advert that will go live tomorrow (Tuesday 15 June).  

The call to action is to visit a campaign website, (which goes live at 9pm this evening), to get the full story. The website will have a number of sections including information on where people can go for help and support as well as some further real-life stories (that have been anonymised) and further rationale behind this campaign.  

Speaking at today’s launch, Naomi Long, Justice Minister said:  

“Illegal money lending is an under-reported crime, but one that is commonplace across communities in Northern Ireland and is a practice which is closely linked to paramilitary gangs. It is a crime that targets vulnerable people when they are at their most desperate. We know from research and evidence that this is yet another example of how paramilitaries and those linked to them try to coerce and control people and communities for their own gain.  

 “The coercion that comes with illegal money lending means that it is common for victims of this crime to feel that they have no-one to turn to. But support and help is available.  Advice NI, the Independent Advice Network, runs a free and confidential, debt service offering practical advice and support to people dealing with debt of any description. Furthermore, I would encourage all victims of criminal behaviour like this to contact the police.”  

 “People have had to live with paramilitary control, violence, threats and exploitation for far too long. Life is hard enough without this. Families, communities and businesses are all desperate to return to normal after COVID-19 and the last thing they need is the negative influence of paramilitary gangs seeking to exert control, often for financial gain. 

 “The Executive Programme to address paramilitarism, criminality and organised crime aims to stop harm, both in the here and now and over the longer term. Through the Programme we will cut off paramilitary supply chains, whether that’s paramilitary drugs that ruin people’s lives, money-lending that leads to misery or the violence that leaves vulnerable kids shot and maimed in the street. There should never be any place for this and as a society, it’s so important we support the people who every day stop another generation being scarred in this way.” 

Today’s online launch event included contributions from a number of organisations, including Seamus McAleavey, Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action (NICVA), Bob Stronge, Chief Executive of Advice NI and Assistant Chief Constable Bobby Singleton from the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).

Notes to editors: 

  1. The Ending the Harm Campaign is part of the Northern Ireland Executive Programme to Tackle Paramilitary Activity, Criminality and Organised Crime, which involves Government Departments, law enforcement agencies, local councils and community and voluntary sectors working together to break the cycle of violence and prevent yet another generation of young people from being exploited and abused by paramilitaries.
    To find out more about the Tackling Paramilitarism, Criminality and Organised Crime Programme, click here to view their web pages. The ‘single mother’ advert being used to launch this campaign is the first in a series of planned adverts to highlight the terrible impact that illegal lending can have on victims, with further adverts to be launched later in the year. 
  2. You can access the campaign materials (TV ad, Radio ad and campaign poster) at the following link:
     Please also note the TV ads are post watershed and should therefore be edited accordingly for use on news bulletins or on social media platforms.
  3. The website,, will be live from 9pm tonight (Monday 14 June).
  4. The TV ad will be launched after 9pm tonight (Monday 14 June) on UTV and Channel 4 with a 60 second version and a shortened, 40 second version. It will also be on Sky Adsmart, Video on Demand channels ITV Hub and All 4.
  • The outdoor ads will run from 14 June. 
  • The radio ad will be on Cool FM, Q Radio, U105, Blast FM and Spotify from Tuesday 15 June. 
  • Social media ads will feature across TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook.
  • The first burst of the campaign will be for three weeks, until early July. There will then be a second burst in late August and a third burst which starts in November. 

5. Advice NI, which is an independent charity, offers confidential debt advice to anyone who finds themselves in this situation. Contact 0800 915 4604.

6. For any further queries, please contact Damian Boylan, Communications Manager for the Tackling Paramilitarism, Criminality and Organised Crime programme, telephone: 07815651982 or email:


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