2 December 2004 Edition

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UDA ceasefire questioned after five appear in court

The appearance of five UDA members at a Belfast Court on attempted kidnap charges calls into question the latest UDA ceasefire.

On 15 November, NIO Minister Paul Murphy told the British parliament he was recognising the UDA ceasefire because he was convinced the unionist paramilitary grouping was genuine in its commitment to end all paramilitary and criminal activity.

The five North Belfast loyalists were arrested in an undercover PSNI operation in the Loopland Gardens and Antrim Road area of North Belfast.

William Mullan (36), Alan McClean (36), William Seenan (44), Stephen Douglas (22), and Jonathan Rossborough (22) appeared in court on Tuesday 30 November, charged with conspiring to kidnap and detain against his will a First Trust bank manager last week. The five were also charged with conspiring to rob the bank official, referred to as Witness A, and of having a Bruni type 8mm pistol.

Rossborough, Seenan and Douglas faced an additional charge of possessing a firearm on Thursday 25 November with intent to commit an indictable offence.

A group of around 40 UDA thugs, including senior UDA members Ihab Shoukri, Winkie Dodds and John Bunting, attended the hearing.

After repeated outbursts between the five in the dock and their supporters in the public gallery, Magistrate Ken Nixon adjourned the case for 20 minutes and warned he would have the court cleared.

At one point, Ihab Shoukri, who is on bail arising out of charges related to the killing of Johnny Adair ally Alan McCullough, became involved in an altercation with a court official who had asked him to be quiet.

Unlike other recent high profile cases, there was no visible sign of the PSNI during any part of the court proceedings.

Supporters cheered from the public gallery as the five were remanded in custody to appear at Belfast Magistrate Court via videolink on 21 December.

Despite attempts to lead the five UDA members back to their cells, UDA supporters surrounded the glass partitioned dock and tried to shake hands with the accused, with Shoukri speaking to McClean for nearly two minutes.

Outside the court, UDA thugs jostled reporters and cameramen in an attempt to stop them filming.

Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly said the presence of senior unionist paramilitaries among supporters in court would do little to encourage nationalists that the UDA's ceasefire is genuine.

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