No conviction over potential UVF atrocity
No conviction over potential UVF atrocity

The only person charged in connection with an attempted mass murder at a busy fair in County Antrim was acquitted yesterday.

The car bomb, planted at the annual Auld Lammas Fair which attracts thousands of people to Ballycastle on the Antrim coast, could have caused a `massive fireball' had a sliver of paint not jammed the timer unit.

Yesterday the man who drove the car carrying the device to the town in August 2001 walked free after Belfast Crown Court accepted his claim that he did not know there was a bomb in the vehicle.

Raymond McMaster, from Coleraine, initially told police he had driven the car at the request of a man he had met in a Bushmills pub.

He later withdrew the statement and denied having driven the car.

Yesterday in court Mr Justice Weatherup said he was satisfied that Mr McMaster had driven the car to Ballycastle from a layby in Armoy.

But while the judge said he was ``satisfied that the explosive device was in the vehicle when the vehicle was brought to the scene by the defendant'', he concluded that he could not ``be sure'' that Mr McMaster had known about the bomb.

The device was ultimately uncovered by the smell of fumes emanating from the car.

Nationalists have expressed anger that no-one has been brought to justice.

Sinn Féin North Antrim assembly member Philip McGuigan last night called on unionist politicians and the British and Irish governments to address loyalist violence.

* A local UVF gangleader is charging members wanting to leave the terror group a #600 `exit visa', acording to reports at the weekend.

The head of the UVF in Antrim stands accused of taking money from at least six men in their teens and early twenties from the town who were desperate to get out of the organisation.

His `exit visa' racket has provoked an outcry among loyalists in Antrim town, who have demanded that the UVF leadership based in Belfast's Shankill Road stand down the Antrim `brigadier'.

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