A loyalist community centre that delivers food parcels has been closed due to threats delivered by a unionist paramilitary gang on Tuesday which were overseen by the PSNI.
William McCaughey, who runs the Ballymac Centre in the Pitt Park area of east Belfast, accused the gang of “torturing the Protestant people”.
The community centre, which contains a conflict museum filled with UVF memorabilia, said it would be remaining closed as a result of intimidation.
The area was the scene of an extraordinary display at around 1.30pm on Tuesday when over 50 masked UVF paramilitaries entered the area. They strutted around for around an hour with the intention of intimidating residents there, watched by a deferential group of PSNI men, and all recorded on video.
Last year, members of the very same loyalist mob murdered father-of-two Ian Ogle, who was stabbed to death outside his home in nearby Cluan Place after 18 months of intimidation. The Ogle family was one of a number of families who sheltered for their own safety inside the Ballymac Centre as the gang roamed outside.
Two homes in the area had been attacked in recent days, in one case showering children with broken glass, all part of the internal feud.
The ‘show of strength’ came amid reported tensions within the UVF over criminality and drug dealing. It also came amid a renewed focus on loyalist paramilitaries following threats to port workers in Larne and Belfast.
The inaction of the PSNI in the face of the gangsterism was strongly condemned by Sinn Fein.
“This week we have seen loyalist paramilitaries attempting to exploit tensions around Brexit to advance their regressive, racist and sectarian politics, as well as to exert control in communities,” said Sinn Fein’s Gerry Kelly.
“Meaningful intervention and action from PSNI in the early stages of this UVF ‘show of strength’ could have prevented this escalation of events.
“The PSNI has serious questions to answer over its inadequate response to the initial incident in the Pitt Park area”, he added.
* Meanwhile, in another loyalist attack, a number of shots were fired at a house in Coleraine at around 8pm on Wednesday. A front window and door were damaged in the attack. Two men inside the house at the time were not hurt.
The shooting is the latest in a series in Coleraine in a matter of months, all linked to a criminal faction of the UDA in the area.
“This now makes five shootings in Coleraine in a matter of months, showing a seemingly increasing and brazen disregard for life,” said independent local Assembly member Clare Sugden.
“Undoubtedly, local people are worried. Young families and older people live in this area and these abhorrent actions affect the entire community.”