09 May 2006

Police chief warns against loyalist crime

BN.ie

09/05/2006 - 19:07:34

No loyalist paramilitary disarmament is imminent, Northern Ireland police chief Sir Hugh Orde said tonight.

And as new crime figures revealed Protestant terrorists carried out more than 90% of security-related shootings last year, a hardline Ulster Defence Association unit has been identified as the biggest barrier to the organisation abandoning violence.

But Sir Hugh warned loyalist bosses his officers were prepared to put even more behind bars.

He said: “Where are all the brigadiers now? The vast majority are charged with serious offences.

“The notion that we are doing nothing is just false.

“If they are going to commit crime we are going to come after them.

“I think we have shown we are going to do that, and we can do that at the most senior levels of their organisations.”

During 2005/06 there were six security-related deaths, up two on the year before.

Shooting incidents fell by 6.6% from 167 to 156, although bombings surged by nearly 69% from 48 to 81.

Rioting which flared around a disputed Orange Order march in Belfast has been recognised as a major factor in that rise.

Police also seized 365 guns and 112,748 rounds of ammunition during the last 12 months.

With the IRA announcing last July that it had abandoned violence, the overwhelming majority of paramilitary punishment attacks were blamed on loyalists.

There were 152 people injured, split evenly between shootings and beatings.

Loyalists carried out 92% of the gun attacks and three quarters of the assaults, according to police figures.

“Beatings and shootings in republican circles are almost zero,” Sir Hugh said.

“The paramilitary beatings within loyalism indicates where loyalism is in terms of the peace process.

“Clearly they still think its okay to take the law into their own hands to control some of their communities through fear.”

The Chief Constable insisted some of the paramilitaries were attempting to go down a new route.

“I do think there are some people within the UDA who are looking for a way out,” he said.

The UDA‘s North Belfast division is thought to be the most fiercely opposed to any new peacetime strategy.

Other commanders are rumoured to be on the verge of ousting brothers Andre and Ihab Shoukri, who run the unit, because of their lifestyle.

Questioned about the theory that this wing of the organisation poses the greatest barrier to a total shift away from violence, Sir Hugh replied: “I think that‘s a particular issue. Yes, I would agree with that.”

The Chief Constable confirmed, however, that police have no intelligence that either the UDA or Ulster Volunteer Force are planning to follow the IRA and disarm.

He said: “They need to get responsible and take a lead from what others have done. But I‘m not optimistic.”

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