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9 November 2000 Edition

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Loyalist feuding set to continue

BY LAURA FRIEL

While last week's bloodletting between loyalist paramilitaries in the rival UVF and UDA has abated to allow each to bury their dead, anticipation of an end to loyalist internecine violence remains premature.

Despite talks between the leadership of the two rival groupings, it is feared that the feud, which erupted in the Shankill at the end of the summer and escalated with a spate of killings in North Belfast last week, may spread outside Belfast as loyalists across the North prepare to enter the fray. The areas deemed most likely to be drawn into confrontation include the Waterside area of Derry, Coleraine, Ballymena and Ballymoney. Northern nationalists fear that a widespread upsurge in loyalist violence will inevitably be played out through recourse to sectarian attacks against the Catholic community.

Rivalry and feuding has always been a part of loyalist paramilitarism. David Greer (21), whose death in North Belfast precipitated the latest round of killings, has been described as ``a typical young UDA man from Tigers Bay''. And part of what was typical about Greer and his friends was that they regularly roamed the streets of North Belfast looking for a fight. For Greer and his peers, rivalry between loyalist paramilitary groups provided a recreational distraction from the more serious business of terrorising `taigs'

And it was just such a skirmish that led to Greer's death last week. On Friday night, Greer and his UDA friends clashed with local UVF youths in Grove Park. On Saturday, hearing of a UVF party, Greer and his gang set out to break it up. Near Mountcollyer Street off the Limestone Road, the young UDA toughs were confronted by two car loads of UVF men on the scout for rival gang members. Greer died with a single bullet wound to the chest. The remnants of a smashed baseball bat were found close to the scene of the shooting. Shattered window panes in a nearby house suggested a street bawl and later the UVF admitted as much.

At 63 years of age, Bertie Rice was a veteran whose loyalist career stretched back to the 1970s, when he set up the local UVF in North Belfast. During the loyalist strike against power sharing in 1974, Rice was sufficiently ruthless to order the killing of two young UDA men after a dispute about bars not closing during the strike. Recently returned from South Africa, Rice worked in the constituency office of the PUP's Assembly member, Billy Hutchinson. A pensioner with an ailing wife, Rice was a soft target for the UDA gang that beat him with baseball bats before shooting him dead in front of his wife.

Within hours, the UVF had retaliated by killing Tommy English. A member of the UDP's talks team, English had a long affiliation with the UDA. In 1998, English had played a key role in orchestrating street violence in support of Orangemen at Drumcree, during which numerous Catholic families were forced to flee their homes in North Belfast. English was also associated with many of beatings handed out locally by the UDA.

In a struggle during the attack, the UVF gunman was unmasked and recognised by English's wife. Mark Quail (26) was locally well known as a UVF gunman. He was also renowned for his fondness of violence, often excessive, in any attack in which he took part. Quail's name had been linked to the killing and mutilation of two Protestant teenagers, Andrew Robb and David McIlwaine, whose bodies were found near Tandragee in Armagh earlier this year. The UDA shot Quail dead in his Rathcoole flat the night after English's death. Twenty-four hours later, the UDA struck again, seriously injuring PUP man Colin Gough.

Meanwhile, the UDA's Johnny Adair is still languishing in jail after his license was revoked by British Secretary of State Peter Mandelson. Adair, whose UDA shows of strength played a key role in sparking the feud on the Shankill, was exposed this week as working closely with British Military Intelligence. Adair's fingerprints have been discovered ``all over'' documents belonging to the covert British army unit, the Force Research unit (FRU). The documents were recently seized from British Army headquarters by the Stevens Inquiry team investigating Crown force collusion with loyalist death squads in the 1989 killing of Belfast defence lawyer Pat Finucane.
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