9 August 2007 Edition

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UDA violence : Minister under pressure to scrap funding

Rioting, drug dealing, feuding — loyalist violence continues

BY LAURA FIREL

SDLP Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie is under increasing pressure to scrap the allocation of over £1 million to the UDA. British Ministers had earmarked the million pound payoff before the restoration of the power sharing institutions at Stormont.
In return, unionist paramilitaries promised to abandon their criminal activities and engage in what was euphemistically termed conflict transformation. But ongoing violent confrontations involving the UDA, played out on the streets of residential estates in which shots were fired and petrol bombs thrown, has heightened calls for the payment to be scrapped.
Last week rioting involving around 200 people in the Kilcooley estate in Bangor erupted after the PSNI raided a number of houses in the area in relation to UDA criminal activity. Cars were set alight, petrol bombs thrown and a number of shots fired.
Shortly after 9pm dozens of hooded youths arrived in the Clandeboye Road entrance to the estate, dragging wheelie bins packed with petrol bombs. By midnight the entire area had been barricaded by burning vehicles and rioting continued into the early hours. A number of gunshots were fired at PSNI vehicles.
UDA leader Jackie McDonald denied the decision to bring weapons out onto the streets had been authorised by the UDA leadership. “Who ever brought those guns out shot the UDA in the foot”, said McDonald.
Dismissing the shooting as a knee-jerk reaction, McDonald said the incident was not in line with the path set out by the conflict transformation initiative and should not effect the funding proposal.
A senior UDA source claimed that £40,000 discovered in a house in Kilcooley estate during a PSNI raid was genuinely money saved for a holiday.
Commenting on the UDA’s million pound transformation package PSNI Chief Hugh Orde said the decision was a political and not a policing matter but speaking personally the UDAs transformation to date, was not worth 50 pence.

Factions
Rioting in Bangor last week had followed close on the heels of a pitch battle between rival factions within the UDA in a Carrickfergus housing estate a week earlier. Over 150 members of the UDA travelled in a convoy of around 30 cars into the Castlemara estate in Carrickfergus before attacking rival members of the UDA. Shots were fired during the confrontation and a PSNI officer was shot in the back.
The incident is being linked to a standoff between the mainstream UDA and a breakaway element in north Belfast last year. In August 2006 leading loyalist Alan McClean and several families loyal to the expelled Shoukri brothers fled to England.
Andre Shoukri is currently in jail awaiting trial for extortion while Ihab has been bailed following UDA membership charges. It is believed that Ihab Shoukri and Alan McClean recently returned under the protection of the breakaway South East Antrim UDA.
A multi-million pound illegal drug dealing operation has also been cited as behind ongoing tension within the UDA. According to a senior Belfast source within the UDA, the South East Antrim UDA is resisting attempted by the Belfast based leadership to clean up their act. According to media reports the breakaway UDA gang were shipping and distributing drugs worth hundreds of thousands  of pounds through a network of UDA members in the South East Antrim area.
Meanwhile former UDA killer Johnny Adair has called on UDA boss Jackie McDonald to lift the death threat and allow him to return to the North. Adair is believed to be currently living in Scotland under the protection of a notorious Glaswegian gangster and drug dealer.


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