26 March 2006

UDA shoots leading loyalist as violence fears heighten

Newshound

(Sharon O'Neill, Irish News)

A leading loyalist was shot in yet another attack in Co Antrim linked to the UDA – the third within weeks which has included a murder.

The loyalist paramilitary organisation has heightened its level of violence in the coastal town of Carrickfergus – despite reports hinting the UFF may be on the verge of a major announcement over its future, and possible disbandment.

The UDA is suspected of being behind the shooting of a 32-year-old man in the town on Wednesday night – the second such attack in days.

The Irish News understands the victim – who was shot in each leg at Carnhill Walk in the Castlemara estate – is a prominent loyalist.

The attack has once again raised concerns over the true intentions of the UDA – whose senior members recently held secret talks in Belfast with Martin McAleese, the husband of President Mary McAleese.

Last week three masked men burst into a mans house in Cherry Walk in the Woodburn area of Carrick and dragged him outside.

A gun was put to the victims head, the trigger pulled, but it failed to go off.

The man, who is understood to have since fled his home, was also pistol whipped during his ordeal, which well-placed sources insist was also the work of the UDA.

Last month former gravedigger Thomas Hollran was murdered in the same area – the finger of suspicion immediately falling on the UDA.

The 49-year-old was set upon as he walked to his sisters house in the Woodburn estate. Brutally beaten, he died in hospital the next day.

His sister blamed the UDA for the killing and police later confirmed loyalist paramilitary involvement was under investigation.

Last month, in its eighth report, the Independent Monitoring Commission blamed the UDA for a murder, sectarian attack, ongoing drug dealing, extortion, robbery and money laundering.

Just two weeks ago, the commission said loyalist paramilitaries were still heavily involved in crime, but added there were signs of a "possible" readiness to turn away from "some of their present criminality".

But last night (Thursday) Alliance assembly member Sean Neeson said: "The UDA are active in Carrickfergus at the present time.

"They are going against the trend that is supposed to be developing in other parts of Northern Ireland.

"I would urge the political wing of the UDA to directly intervene.

"There is growing unrest among many ordinary people in Carrickfergus about the continuing activity of loyalist paramilitaries."

Carrickfergus mayor, DUP assembly member David Hilditch said: "This must cease. Everybody says they are on ceasefire.

"Carrickfergus has come on so well in recent years. We just dont need this sort of thing."

No-one from the UPRG could be contacted for comment.

March 26, 2006
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This article appeared first in the March 24, 2006 edition of the Irish News.

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