The Six County administration in Belfast has been accused of sustaining loyalist criminality following the murder of a former UDA leader by a rival loyalist gang.
John ‘Bonzer’ Boreland (pictured) was shot dead in North Belfast last Sunday night. He died at the scene near his Ballysillan home after suffering fatal gun shot injuries. The PSNI sealed off the area as an angry crowd gathered.
Tensions have been high in loyalist north Belfast since families were forced out of their homes in the area by a breakaway faction of the UDA. The leader of the group is thought to have fled to Scotland after clashing with the UVF.
A former UDA ‘brigadier’ in north Belfast, Boreland had previously survived a gun attack two years ago when he was with former top UDA figure Andre Shoukri. He knew he was in danger from former UDA associates since he was ousted from power during the loyalist power struggle inside the North Belfast brigade. He was also under threat from another loyalist paramilitary gang, the infamous Mount Vernon UVF.
But while republican communities remain under oppressive police stop-and-search patrols and their political activists are interned without trial, the Stormont administration have treated loyalist killer gangs with kid gloves. Most controversially, their ringleaders have been provided with salaries for bogus jobs as well as more indirect, grant-aid funding.
Prominent victims’ campaigner Raymond McCord, whose 22-year-old son Raymond jnr was murdered by the Mount Vernon UVF in November 1997, said unionist politicians in Belfast “haven’t the guts” to stand up to them.
“They stand with them at protests, they go to meetings with them knowing what they are,” he said. “People have not the courage to stand up to them. If we want it to stop let’s put the leaders away, stop their funding and put them in jail and let’s see how many murders take place.”
Protestant Pastor Jack McKee has spoken out against the practice of treating loyalist hoods as community workers, which he said made people feel powerless. He said his stance is perceived as a threat by politicians attempting to draw paramilitaries “into the circle”.
One of the authors of a report into such paramilitary groups has lent his support, saying loyalist leaders should not be “brigadiers at night and community workers during the day”.
Lawyer John McBurney, who was one of those commissioned to report on the issue of paramilitary groups as part of last year’s ‘Fresh Start’ negotiations, said the police were using known gang bosses as their main contact within communities. Some loyalists who receive salaries as “community workers” were in fact terrorising their own people, he said.
“While they want us to believe they’re connecting with what they call local people and with residents, they will connect first and foremost with paramilitary representatives,” he said.
“Then they’ll tell us that they’re talking to the local people and the residents.”
He said as part of his work in the Shankill area, he had visited the homes of victims of loyalist gangs who have been shot or assaulted by gangs being directed by Stormont-funded community workers. “That’s the reality,” he said.
He also warned of potential further killings and urged loyalist paramilitaries “to reflect on where all of this could lead” and “draw back from that position which has the likely outcome of an internecine battle.”