28 May 2006

UDA on brink of civil war as Shoukri mavericks stick two fingers up at terror group

Sunday Life

Alan Murray and Stephen Breen
28 May 2006

THE UDA is on the brink of a bloody feud after five senior figures in north Belfast refused to step down.

Andre and Ihab Shoukri, along with Alan McClean, are among the five refusing demands by the UDA's 'inner council' for them to go.

One informed source in north Belfast said a defiant message had been returned.

"Nothing will change" was the message sent back," he said.

"If the 'brigade' has to go it alone, it will. We have enough about ourselves to be confident and face the challenge."

There remains uncertainty within the UDA about what way the south east Antrim 'brigade' will jump, because of its close links with north Belfast members.

One source said that there could be developments in the south east Antrim soon.

Added a senior source from that area: "Our brigade supports the position of Ihab Shoukri but we will not be offering any support to Alan McClean. North Belfast sees itself as the youngest, hardest and most militaristic of all the brigades and they are saying they can go it alone.

"McClean is claiming that he is benefiting the community, but he is running the show in terms of the criminal and drugs operations. He knows he won't get our support."

Jackie McDonald's contact with the Irish President Mary McAleese and his friendship with her husband Martin has long been a source of discussion within the UDA, and now it is being used as a weapon to undermine his authority.

Many senior figures in the north Belfast blame McDonald for instigating the move against the Shoukris.

And in an ominous comment, one north Belfast figure said: "It's now time for straight talking. If the brigade has to go it alone it will. South Belfast isn't going to dictate who does what up here and what puppet should be installed. Jackie McDonald and his pals have their agenda and we don't think everyone goes along with it."

Despite concerns that the 'inner council's' move could spark a feud, sources say there is broad support in the UDA for the ultimatum to north Belfast.

But one UDA source added: "'The Mexican' (the Derry leader) doesn't want to see a split but he appears to have gone along with the south Belfast and east Belfast Brigades.

"If the north Belfast brigade digs its heels in, then there will be a major split in the organisation. If the south east Antrim brigade backs off from this, then the whole organisation will be well and truly split. It will be a disaster."

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