Loyalists turn on each other
Since the killing of Portadown UVF leader Richard Jameson on 10 January, tensions have been mounting among the loyalist death squads in the North. This seems now to have escalated into a full-scale feud.
Within weeks of Jameson's death, two Portadown youths were found beaten and stabbed to death outside Tandragee. The pair were said to have been killed by the UVF in retaliation for the Jameson killing.
Last Wednesday, 24 May, a loyalist from Dungannon was shot at as he left a shop on Belfast's Oldpark Road where he is currently working. The man is said to be linked to dissident loyalists and the general view is that the UVF were also behind this attempted assassination.
Within a matter of days, on Friday 26 May, Martin Taylor from the Ballysillan area of North Belfast was killed by two gunmen as he built a wall. A second man who escaped was thought to have been the actual target of the shooting.
Since the Taylor killing, the UVF attacked a house in Ballygowan, firing up to 30 rounds from automatic weapons. After this killing the PUP's Billy Hutchinson accused Taylor's killers of being criminals and drug dealers.
Hutchinson has levelled this accusation at the LVF on more than one occasion in the past and not without foundation. The LVF, which was set up by Billy Wright and which had its power base in Portadown, is long believed to have run drugs for both profit and guns.
d as the LVF and UVF fight it out on the streets the UDA is manoeuvering to a position of support for the LVF.
Elements within the UDA who never fully supported the peace process backed the LVF when, in the aftermath of Wright's death, the death squad killed over ten nationalists. Indeed, the UDA accounted for the majority of these sectarian killings, even though the LVF claimed responsibility.
What must worry nationalists at this juncture is that if history repeats itself, once the loyalists guns come out they will eventually be turned on nationalists.
It should be stressed that loyalist guns have never really been put away. The LVF staged a highly publicised decommissioning gimmick, yet has been involved in numerous killings since.
These events underline the hypocrisy of the manner in which the issue of decommissioning has been used by rejectionbsist unionists in an attempt to wreck the Good Friday Agreement and the Peace Process. Loyalist gun gangs - all supposed to be on ceasefire - are involved in armed actions. While the unionists have used the flimsiest evidence, usually supplied to them by the RUC, to have Sinn Féin expelled from the political process, it is ironic that loyalist violence has been allowed to pass with none of the usual sanctimonious preaching and efforts at political exclusion.