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9 March 2006 Edition

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Murder attempt: DUP contributing to loyalist violence

Murder bid on taxi driver

Claiming repsonsibility for a murder attempt on a Belfast taxi driver last weekend, The Red Hand Defenders, a cover name used by the UDA, has issued a blanket death threat against republican ex-prisoners.

A caller to the Daily Ireland newspaper, using a recognised codeword, said that all former republican prisoners were considered "legitimate targets again".

The caller also claimed responsibility for the attempted murder of the taxi driver on Saturday night 4 March and said similar attacks would follow.

The driver, from the nationalist New Lodge area, had a gun put to his head after he picked up four men at the Mater Hospital in north Belfast.

Fortunately, the weapon jammed as one of the men pulled the trigger. A struggle then broke out and the driver managed to run from the car. The men fled from the scene, into the loyalist Ballysillan estate.

Sinn Féin councillor Caral Ní Chuilin, linked the murder bid to last week's PSNI operation against a loyalist in North Belfast. "It was only a matter of time before their supporters lashed out at the nationalist community", she said.

Eight handguns, an AK47 rifle, 18 kilos of explosives and detonating equipment were found in a house in Burmah Street and taken away by Crown Forces.

A spokeperson for An Fhirinne, Robert McClenaghan, called on politicians to demand the forensic and ballistic history of the arms. "The reaction so far from unionist politicians has been deafening silence. Why have they remained so quiet? Is it because the weapons were to be used by unionist death squads?

"Serious questions need to be answered to allay fears within the nationalist community at present.

"Are these weapons from before the UDA/UVF/RHC ceasefire of October 1994? Or have they been recently brought into the North of Ireland to be used in a renewed onslaught against the Catholic community.

"Until the full forensic and ballistic history of these weapons is established, nationalists and republicans must remain vigilant.

"Unionist politicians should be speaking out now, or else be exposed as unbelievable hypocrites, only interested in republican weapons."

Sinn Féin Assembly member for North Belfast Gerry Kelly said, the DUP could not divorce itself from the attempted murder of the taxi driver. "The DUP sit on forums with the UDA, the organisation responsible for this murder bid. Yet they continue to refuse to engage with Sinn Féin about the business of putting the political institutions back in place. Their hypocrisy is breathtaking. The two governments have allowed the DUP to create a political vacuum.

"That political vacuum has now been filled by unionist paramilitary violence. It did not take a great understanding of our history to predict that this would happen. A Catholic man almost paid with his life on Saturday night as a result.

"The DUP need to realise that there is a price being paid for their continuing failure to engage, and the two governments have to realise that there is a price being paid for their continued pandering to the DUP", Kelly said.

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