The failure of the authorities at Stormont and in London to challenge loyalist paramilitary violence has been highlighted after a UDA faction murdered a man in broad daylight this week.
The murder took place on a busy residential street in Carrickfergus, a coastal town known for being the subject of a classic Irish folk song, but now synonymous with mafioso-style loyalist gangs.
George ‘Geordie’ Gilmore, a prominent loyalist paramilitary, was in his car in the early afternoon when he was hit in the neck, torso and leg at point-blank range by an unmasked gunman on Monday. He died from his injuries less than 24 hours later.
His killing is believed to have been ordered by UDA chiefs in south-east Antrim as part of an ongoing loyalist feud in the area. Just hours before he was shot, the 44-year-old had posted on Facebook: “The days of the UDA putting people out of Carrick are over.”
Politicians urged the factions involved to remain calm in the wake of the attack amid warnings of possible retaliation.
In July last year there was a tense stand-off between loyalists at Gilmore’s home, as a mob of around 100 UDA men, some of them masked, marching towards the house under the watch of the PSNI police. Gilmore had fallen out of favour with the south-east Antrim UDA faction but retained a small group of supporters who refused to leave the town, despite knowing they were under death threat.
The ‘military commander’ said to have ordered Gilmore’s murder has also previously feuded with another UDA group associated with Johnny ‘Mad Dog’ Adair. That long-running feud resulted in the murders in 2003 of faction leader John ‘Grug’ Gregg, who once attempted to assassinate Sinn Fein’s Gerry Adams, and as retribution that of Alan McCullough, an Adair loyalist. The killings resulted in Adair and his supporters being expelled from the organisation and fleeing to exile in Scotland.
There was also unrelated feuding this week associated with the other main unionist paramilitary organisation, the UVF. A former leading north Belfast UVF figure, Darren Moore suffered critical injuries after being attacked in a County Antrim bar by ten loyalists armed with hammers and/or baseball bats.
Sinn Fein northern leader Michelle O’Neill condemned the latest killing, saying the shooting happened “on a day when we... signed into the assembly and in doing so, pledged to work to end paramilitarism”.
“There is a duty on everyone in public life to work to end paramilitarism. That is the job of political leadership and Sinn Fein is committed to that task and I urge others to do the same.”