The unionist paramilitary UDA are understood to be planning riots this weekend in the town of Carrickfergus, in County Antrim following serious disturbances last night.
A car was hijacked and set on fire in the Woodburn estate and barricades of burning rubbish were placed across the road during about three hours of disorder.
The trouble has been linked to the policing of violence in Larne almost two weeks ago, when crowds of over a 100 club-wielding paramilitaries were involved in a UDA ‘rampage’. The mob assault was directed against two brothers who had fallen foul of the organisation. A number of homes and cars were wrecked and three residents were hospitalised.
UDA paramilitaries had openly gathered in Carrickfergus before travelling in convoy to Larne to carry out the well-planned attack, all without PSNI intervention. Last weekend, public concerns mounted over the apparent impunity with which the UDA was able to act when charges against two men in connection with the violence were suddenly dropped.
Since then there have been a series of arrests and one man has now been charged.
PSNI ACC Inspector Will Kerr said last night [Thursday night] up to 50 masked men were observed “gathering petrol bombs”. He blamed a “faction” of the south-east Antrim UDA for the trouble, and that it intends to “orchestrate serious disorder” with riots and attacks on the PSNI.
He also warned local residents that the UDA intends to “bring young people out onto the streets” to attack the PSNI.
The MP for East Antrim, Sammy Wilson, said he understood the Carrickfergus trouble is a reprisal for the PSNI’s decision to proceed with the investigation into the Larne violence, and expressed fears about the potential for “civil disorder”.
“The cynical use of young people by the criminal godfathers, who are angry that the police have dared to arrest people suspected of being involved in the disorder in Larne two weeks ago, is disgraceful,” he said.
ACC Kerr said that the south east Antrim UDA was wrong to believe it was “in control” of the area.
“We seized nearly 800 items in the last two weeks, including imitation firearms, machetes, drugs and a range of other items,” he said.
“We’ll continue to do that because these groups, particularly and including the south east Antrim UDA, act as parasites on this community. We will not, on behalf of the vast majority of decent people who live in Carrickfergus, allow them to get away with it.”