05 April 2006

Loyalist flees after PSNI tells of UDA faction threat

Daily Ireland

by Ciarán Barnes

A leading north Belfast loyalist has been warned his life is under threat from a faction within the Ulster Defence Association.
PSNI officers called to the home of John Bunting on Monday evening to tell him he was being targeted by loyalist paramilitaries.
The warning came after members of the north Belfast UDA, under investigation by the group’s ruling inner council, claimed the Ulster Political Research Group spokesman was working as a PSNI informer.
The UDA leadership has dismissed the rumours but Mr Bunting has moved from his former home in north Belfast’s loyalist Westland estate to Ballyclare in Co Antrim, where his girlfriend lives.
Until recently, Mr Bunting was a close associate of the jailed north Belfast UDA leader Andre Shoukri.
The pair drifted apart over Mr Bunting’s desire to see the UDA pursue a more political path and Mr Shoukri’s rejection of this strategy.
The driving force behind the UDA’s political strategy is its south Belfast leader Jackie McDonald. Mr Bunting is said to be close to Mr McDonald and complained bitterly to him last year about the north Belfast UDA’s refusal to end extortion and drug dealing.
Rumours about Mr Bunting working for the PSNI are being spread by north Belfast UDA members who remain loyal to the Shoukri faction.
It is understood these men are behind the death threat against Mr Bunting. They also ransacked his former Westland home.
Sources close to the UDA leadership told Daily Ireland that those spreading the rumours were “much more likely to be touts” than Mr Bunting.
“They are unhappy that big John is trying to take the organisation along a more political path,” said one source.
“They are trying to blacken his name by going down the obvious road of calling him a tout. No one believes what they are saying. If anyone is a tout, it’s them.”
Mr Bunting could not be reached for comment.

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