13 September 2000 Edition
Loyalist feud continues
Shankill Assembly member Billy Hutchinson fears a further escalation in the feud between the UVF and UDA. ``I have not seen any sign of people wanting to relent or let up,'' he said. The Progressive Unionist Party representative was speaking after another night of loyalist violence on the Shankill which included a pipe bomb attack on his home.
Shots were fired in the Lower Shankill estate during confrontations between gangs of UDA and UVF members and supporters, many carrying baseball bats and pick axe handles, as they roamed the streets on Tuesday night. Trouble flared after pipe bombs were thrown at the home of Billy Hutchinson, whose party is closely associated with the UVF, and at a local UVF bar.
John White of the Ulster Democratic Party, linked to the UDA, claimed the attacks had only taken place after UVF members had tried to ram Johnny Adair's car as his wife Gina was driving it. He also claimed that the UVF had attempted to stab the widow of the late loyalist Jackie Coulter on Monday and had attacked a 22-year-old with hammers and hatchets.
``The UVF are roaming about trying to pick up anyone they associate with the UDA to do them in,'' claimed White. Earlier in the week, a pipe bomb attack in Coleraine had been linked to loyalist feuding. The device exploded in the front garden of a house in Hartford Park in the Ballysally estate. A shot was also fired but the three occupants, a man and his wife and daughter, escaped injury.
According to figures released by the Housing Executive this week, to date over a hundred families have been driven out of their homes in the Shankill area of Belfast as a result of the ongoing feud between loyalist paramilitary groupings. A further 25 loyalists have been driven from their homes in the lower Old Park area of North Belfast.
Gina Adair petitions Downing Street
BY FERN LANE AND STEPHEN McALAOISE
Johnny Adair's wife Gina was outside Downing Street on Friday 8 September protesting at the return to prison of her husband. As she handed in two letters for Prime Minister Tony Blair demanding the release of UDA man Adair, she was accompanied by convicted loyalist gun-runner Frank Portinari as well as a group of about 20 supporters, comprising the UDA's London branch and members of Combat 18, the British neo-nazi group, which has close links to the UDA. Some had posters of Adair bearing the legend ``VICTIMISATION. Free Johnny Adair Now - His only crime is Loyalism.''
Supporting Adair via the news media was one Thomas Potts, billed as the ``Loyalist Protest Leader''. In an interview with Sky News, Potts said that ``Johnny Adair is 100% behind the Good Friday Agreement and surely he should be released to continue the work that he has started''.
Also identified amongst the group outside Downing Street was National Front member and another loyalist gun-runner Terry Blackman, wearing a similar T-shirt to that sported by UDA members who gathered in Portadown during the Drumcree crisis.
Adair has a history of personal involvement with fascist groups; he was an active member of the National Front in the early 1980s, as were many of his closest cohorts in the UDA's Shankill `C' Company, including Sam McCrory.
Adair was rearrested near his home on the Shankill Road on 23 August and sent to Maghaberry jail on the orders of Peter Mandelson. The Secretary of State had decided that in orchestrating the ongoing feud between the UDA and the UVF and the consequent attacks on homes of those associated with the UVF, Adair was in breach of the terms of his licence. That he was also clearly running out of the control of British security forces and attacking his `own side' was also likely to have been a principle factor in his re-arrest. His involvement in the UDA's long-running campaign of sectarian violence against nationalists, particularly in the north and west of Belfast, had gone entirely unpunished.
The loyalist feud has led to three deaths and several injuries up until now, but the fear amongst nationalists is that these attacks will become more frequent and even more violent as the UDA and UVF attempt to resolve their differences as they have in the past - by killing Catholics.
On Tuesday, Gina Adair and a gang of UDA supporters briefly disrupted the first meeting back of the Assembly at Stormont when they shouted abuse at PUP members from the public gallery.