Feuding gangs could turn on Catholics

Loyalist paramilitaries have been put up in the luxury Hilton hotel in Belfast as a turf war between unionist paramilitary factions continued with further bomb attacks.

Fears have grown in nationalist areas that Catholics will be targeted once the feud ends.

The smaller Loyalist Volunteer Force was blamed for a bomb attack in Holywood, County Down in which a man and woman escaped injury. The larger Ulster Volunteer Force has been blamed for most of the violence which followed the gangland-style murder of LVF man Brian Stewart in east Belfast.

On Monday, a number of houses were damaged in a blast bomb attack in east Belfast shortly after Mr Stewart was buried amid tight security in Roselawn cemetery on the outskirts of the city. In a separate incident a nail bomb was found at a house in the Ballybeen estate in east Belfast. The same home, now vacated, had come under gun attack on Sunday.

No one was injured in the latest attacks, although the blasts have shattered windows and started fires. These incidents follow on two weekend explosions and a number of shootings incidents in east Belfast.

The feuding is over the proceeds of illegal criminal activity. Bizarrely, the Housing Executive spokeswoman confirmed that those who had fled their homes, including well-known paramilitary figures, had been accomodated at Belfast's luxury Hilton hotel.

"The Housing Executive is legally obliged by the homelessness legislation to provide temporary accommodation on an emergency basis," a spokeswoman said.

"Unfortunately there can be sensitive situations where we have no alternative but to use hotel accommodation in a neutral location to temporarily house homeless people."

Meanwhile, Sinn Fein South Belfast assembly member Alex Maskey raised concerns that feuding loyalists would eventually turn their attentions towards the nationalist community.

"We have the PSNI Chief Con-stable (Hugh Orde) meeting with Paul Murphy to discuss a situation which he says could escalate out of control," he said.

"This after a man has been killed and we have seen daily bomb attacks across east Belfast and into north Down.

"Obviously Mr Orde believes that current situation is under control. I can assure him that nationalists living in interface areas, who are fearful of this spilling over into sectarian violence, do not share his confidence," he said.

"After the incident involving Bobby Tohill in a Belfast bar unionist politicians were beating the British government's door down demanding action. Hugh Orde was on the media within hours apportioning blame. None of this has happened in this case. It seems that the MP for East Belfast has gone missing. No senior unionist political figures have commented.

"The British government response has been to house the East Belfast LVF in the 4 star Hilton Hotel, thereby endangering the lives of people working there and the local nationalist community in the Markets and surrounding areas.

"The double standards and hypocrisy of the unionist political leadership and the response of the British government to events like these is staggering."

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