A vigilante group said to have links to former IRA members has threatened criminals in what it says is an attempt to tackle an epidemic of drugs and anti-social activity in north Belfast.
Graffiti has appeared on several walls threatening drug dealers and house breakers with attack and calling on local residents to support Action Against Drugs (AAD).
‘Join AAD reclaim your community’ read one. ‘Hoods, drug dealers, house breakers will be dealt with’ read another. A photograph has also emerged of two armed and masked men in a show of strength beside the warnings.
It follows the robbery of a house in the New Lodge belonging to a frail old woman aged in her 90s and other serious incidents in recent weeks. Efforts to deal with the problem of criminal and anti-social activity through the provision of community services and heavy-handed policing have failed. The PSNI has acknowledged it has limited support in the area.
AAD said it targeted a home in the New Lodge area on Monday. It said a threat had previously been issued to the parents of the youths allegedly involved in anti-social activity. Paint was thrown over a house and two windows in a door were smashed.
Earlier this week AAD issued a statement which said: “Parents who condone and allow their sons/daughters to participate will be held responsible for the actions. Control your youth or we will.”
Sinn Féin’s Carál Ní Chuilín condemned the attack which she said left “neighbours and elderly residents frightened” and was a “desperate attempt to gain relevance”.
“There is no place for these types of vigilante groups. They have been rejected by the people of the New Lodge and should now get off the community’s back,” she said. “All criminality should be dealt with by the police.”
A man in Ardoyne has also been the victim of a punishment shooting, also blamed on AAD. In another statement the group said it will also continue to target drug dealers.
“Our main aim is still the drug epidemic sweeping our areas,” it said. “Our message to those involved in drug dealing, ‘be afraid’.”
It added that “we will stop the scum terrorising our areas”. It has previously claimed responsibility for killing three men in 2012 and 2016 who they said were involved in drugs.
In a separate development, a criminal member of a notorious loyalist family has been shot dead in what is reported to have been a grudge killing by a rival on Monday night.
A brother of LVF (Loyalist Volunteer Force) killers Clifford and Trevor McKeown, the drugs kingpin was shot several times in his car in Waringstown, County Down, metres from his home in a typical gangland-style ‘hit’.
Both of his brothers served prison sentences for two separate sectarian murders and all three would have been close associates of the serial-killing LVF boss Billy Wright.