A community group has told how it was forced to abandon a tour of historic sites in County Antrim after their bus was charged by the UDA.
Members of the group from north and west Belfast, which included young children and pensioners, had to be escorted from Antrim town by a police patrol following the loyalist protest in Church Street on Tuesday afternoon.
The tour, organised as part of the West Belfast Feile, was being given by local historian and former Antrim Sinn Fein councillor Martin McManus.
The tour bus had earlier stopped at a number of sites in the Antrim area linked to the 1798 United Irish rebellion but organisers claim that when it reached Antrim town it was mobbed by a 100-strong hostile crowd.
North Belfast man Aidan Ferguson said the bus was “charged” by the protesters in Church Street leaving people on the tour bus frightened.
“It was well prepared, they got a tip off as this was not well advertised,” he said.
The incident took place amid tensions over loyalist and republican commemorations across the Six Counties.
Martin McManus, who in the past has given similar tours involving senior loyalists, said he believed the attack was co-ordinated by the UDA.
Although generally less organised than the other main loyalist paramilitary group, the UDA remains dangerous.
Internal friction within the group this week saw a pipe-bomb attack on a car in north Belfast. Leading loyalist John Bunting is believed to have been the intended target of the attack at Duncairn Gardens shortly after 11am on Monday.
The pipe bomb style explosive, which was packed with a flammable liquid, hit a car belonging to the senior loyalist causing minor damage to the windscreen.
It is just the latest in a series of clashes between people who were previously expelled from the UDA and mainstream loyalists in the area. A faction of loyalists from the Tigers Bay area are believed to have been responsible for the attack and are reportedly linked to a breakaway ‘Ulster Political Research Group’ in north Belfast.
Some loyalists attempted to blame republicans for the incident, but Sinn Fein’s Gerry Kelly said it was clear that “anti-peace process loyalists” were responsible.
Republican Network for Unity (RNU) north Belfast representative Sammy Cusick said: “If splintered loyalism cannot stand over their actions they shouldn’t engage in them.
“RNU calls on nationalists and republicans to be vigilant in north Belfast if loyalism remains intent on deflecting blame for their actions”.