Leaders of two loyalist paramilitary groups are said to be at the point of feuding over drug dealing on Belfast’s Shankill Road.
An angry meeting is understood to have taken place recently between the two organisations in west Belfast. The UDA (‘Ulster Defence Association’), now almost entirely devoted to drug dealing, has threatened to attack those that pay protection money to the UVF (‘Ulster Volunteer Force’), which has been targeting dealers for extortion.
The UDA accused the UVF of hypocrisy by demanding ‘tax’ from drug dealers and shops, while also seeking millions of pounds from the British government for supposedly turning against crime.
At the centre of the row is the promise of £5m of grant aid for UVF ‘community projects’ throughout the north of Ireland. The money will come from the £50 million ‘Fresh Start’ funding previously announced for unionist paramilitary organisations.
In return for the cash, two UVF leaders have said they will oppose criminality and urge members to move into the ACT (Action for Community Transformation) Initiative, a well-funded registered charity.
The UDA earns tens of millions of pounds annually from its drugs trade, overshadowing its income from government handouts.
But West Belfast UDA chiefs are now blaming the UVF for a series of recent PSNI raids. Some UVF members have admitted to being encouraged to inform on UDA drug pushers.
The various units and factions of the UDA remain actively involved in serious crime across the North, but with little overall control. The organisation came in for heavy criticism recently after it shot and critically injured a 65-year-old woman in her Coleraine home after it was raked with gunfire.
The UDA have now begun targeting republicans in the Limavady area of County Derry, planting hoax explosive devices. Their action came after Saoradh held a leaflet drop in the area.
“These loyalist gangs, true to their tradition have now began attacking innocent members of republican working class areas who they deem or suspect are supporters of a legitimate republican socialist cause,” Saoradh said.
“This is a worrying development for those living in these areas as loyalist death squads for decades have butchered, murdered and maimed innocent civilians across Ireland with not only impunity, but actively supported and supplied by British Crown Forces and British military intelligence.
“The Irish people, and those who struggle for freedom, have been at the coalface of Britain and her willing attack dogs in loyalism for decades. No amount of intimidation, fascism, wanton murder of innocence, threats or collusion has succeeded in forcing our people to become compliant under British imperialism and it certainly won’t work now.”