22 July 2004 Edition

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UDA show of strength exposes PSNI

The PSNI have been severely criticised for allowing a UDA gun gang to fire a volley of shots from a makeshift stage erected on Westland Road in North Belfast on 11 July.

Masked and armed members of the UDA staged the show of strength on a platform bedecked with unionist paramilitary paraphernalia. A masked UDA man read out a statement stating that it would take the war to republicans if they attacked loyalists while other loyalists fired a volley of shots form automatic weapons and handguns.

A PSNI spokesperson said they had closed the street after they were informed that a street party was taking place and had no prior knowledge of the incident. "This is a community issue which should be addressed using a multi-agency approach."

North Belfast Sinn Féin Councillor, Danny Lavery, said the PSNI statement was farcical and sickening, given the fact that the stage the gunmen fired from was erected in broad daylight and decorated with illegal UDA flags and banners.

"The statement from the PSNI is completely unacceptable," he said. "Are the guns that were fired that night a community issue or is the fact that the same loyalist guns have killed countless people also a community issue?

"This is a clear example of the double standards and duplicity that highlight starkly the methods the PSNI use to deal with unionist paramilitaries and nationalist residents. Those nationalist residents who were protesting peacefully on the Crumlin Road on the 12fth were hemmed in by a massive militaristic operation and then beaten into Ardoyne while loyalist gunmen still have a free hand to do what they like when they wish."

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