A senior UVF unionist paramilitary was left in critical condition after being stabbed outside a busy north Belfast supermarket, apparently by a feuding rival.
The incident came as the UVF was blamed for an unrelated state of mail-bomb attacks against prominent Catholic citizens in Scotland.
On Wednesday afternoon, ‘Harmless’ Harry Stockman was knifed in what may have been a revenge attack for the murder of another prominent loyalist, Bobby Moffett. Stockton is widely believed to be the UVF’s second-in-command.
Bobby Moffett’s killing, in the middle of a busy Shankill Road in May last year, received the tacit endorsement of the British government’s Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC). No-one was subsequently charged with the killing.
It is believed David Madine, an acquaintance of Moffett’s, suddenly grabbed a knife from the Tesco supermarket shelves and attacked after spotting Stockman at the packed store.
Madine was later said to have made a “full and frank” admission in regard to the incident, after being arrested on the Ballygomartin Road.
Tensions remained high in the Shankill afterwards. Dozens of high profile loyalists from the UVF gathered for an emergency “summit” at a bar in the area, with fears that reprisals or feuding could follow the attack.
Madine’s lawyer told Belfast Magistrates’ Court on Friday that his client asked for his apologies to be passed to Tesco customers and staff for the “unsavoury and violent” scene.
During his brief appearance in court, Madine shouted and swore from the dock, branding Mr Stockman a “tout” [British agent].
Applying for bail, his lawyer said the attack had not been premeditated.
“He did make it abundantly clear there was nothing premeditated, this was a chance encounter,” he said. “This was a chance encounter, a most regrettable incident, and the defendant was most full and frank to the authorities.”
A senior PSNI figure objected strongly to bail, arguing there was a serious risk to Stockman’s safety.
“The injured party would be, it’s fair to say, a prominent senior loyalist within the Shankill Road area,” he said.
At this point, Madine shouted: “He’s a f****** tout, that’s what he is.”
Madine was refused bail and was ordered to be held on remand.
Meanwhile, the ‘Protestant Action Group’ - a traditional cover name for the UVF - said it was responsible for attempting to kill Neil Lennon, the manager of the Glasgow Celtic soccer team, with a letter bomb.
High profile lawyer and Celtic supporter Paul McBride and politician Trish Godman were also targeted by the bombs, which Scottish police said had the capacity to maim and kill.
The attacks appeared entirely sectarian and fueled by Celtic’s traditional and deep rivalry with Glasgow Rangers.
Lennon is a particular target for anti-Catholic hatred, and has received several death threats throughout his career, including receiving bullets in the post.
Amid renewed concern over anti-Catholic sentiment in the west of Scotland, the leader of the Catholic Church there, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, also said he had received bullets in the post.
The Scottish Football Association has also been at the centre of allegations of sectarian discrimination against Lennon and the Celtic organisation.
A mock-up on Facebook of Lennon in a blood-soaked football strip emerged in the wake of bombs being sent to his home.
The image of Mr Lennon had been ‘Liked’ by more than a hundred people, before it was removed.