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20 April 2000 Edition

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Loyalist tension in Belfast

A heated argument between loyalists Johnny Adair and John White of the UDP and David Ervine of the PUP on the Shankill Road this week has further fuelled speculation of tensions between loyalist factions within Belfast city.

A mural depicting the former LVF founder and serial sectarian murderer Billy Wright under the banner `loyalist martyr' recently appeared in the Shankill area. The mural, painted by supporters of the UDP, the loyalist party linked to the UDA, supports growing evidence suggesting contacts between the LVF and UDA in West Belfast.

Paint thrown at the Wright mural just prior to completion became the focus of a furious row between rival loyalist factions. John White of the UDP blamed PUP supporters for the paint attack and warned that ``feelings were running high''.

Billy Hutchinson of the PUP denied all knowledge of the mural but questioned ``why the UDP wants a mural of Billy Wright when the UFF wanted action taken against him when he was alive''.

This is not the first time the name of Johnny Adair has been linked with the LVF. Before Wright's death in jail in 1997, he held a series of meetings with Wright.

In a series of loyalist sectarian killings in late 1997 and early 1998, nationalists believed many attacks, reportedly carried out by the LVF, were carried out with direct collusion of the UDA. Some ten Catholics were killed and the UDA, accused of direct involvement in three of the killings, were later thrown out of the talks process.

Wright, a former member of the UVF, was expelled after the murder of Catholic taxi driver Michael McGoldrick during the Drumcree standoff of 1996. He later defied a UVF death threat and formed his own loyalist grouping, the LVF, in Portadown in June 1997.
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