A man named in the Dublin parliament earlier this year as a PSNI Special Branch agent linked to a series of murders was shot near North Belfast today.
Mark Haddock, who held a leading position in the unionist paramilitary UVF, suffered multiple injuries and was taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast for emergency treatment.
Haddock’s former associates in the UVF are the chief suspects in the murder bid. He had been out on bail pending trial on the attempted murder in December 2002 of nightclub doorman Trevor Gowdy, who was attacked with an iron bar and a hatchet.
Haddock has also been linked to the murder in 1997 of Raymond McCord Jnr -- whose killing is currently the focus of an investigation by Police Ombudsman Nuala O’Loan.
Mr McCord, 22, was beaten to death and his body left at a quarry. His father has led a campaign for an inquiry into the murder and the role Special Branch handlers played in the killing, which is thought to have helped to protect the identity of an informer.
The apparent UVF murder bid could put pressure on the Ulster Unionist Party and its leader Reg Empey, recently excoriated for including UVF representative David Ervine in the UUP group at the shadow Assembly.
UDA FEUD FEARS
Meanwhile, a power struggle between unionist paramilitary gang leaders in north and south Belfast is in danger of erupting into violence.
A highly public bust-up could spill over into violence after an ultimatum was issued ordering so-called ‘brigadier’ Ihab Shoukri to resign his position by noon today.
Shoukri was made north Belfast UDA leader in the absence of his older brother Andre who is currently awaiting trial on charges of blackmail, intimidation and money laundering following his arrest last November.
Ihab Shoukri is currently out on bail after being charged with UDA membership.
It is being reported that south Belfast UDA leader Jackie McDonald is behind the move to oust the two.
It is understood an ultimatum has been issued of the UDA membership in the north of the city, insisting the Shoukri brothers and a third gang leader -- a one-time close associate of Johnny Adair -- be removed from their leadership positions.
The decision whether or not to expel the brothers is seen as the biggest crisis to hit the UDA since the feud involving Shankill leader Johnny Adair and his associate John White.
Nationalists, particularly in north Belfast, are concerned that another full-blown UDA feud could lead to an increase in sectarian attacks by that organisation.
The position is expected to become clear later this week.