The South Antrim UDA have been blamed locally for a pipe bomb which caused a major alert in a nationalist area of the county this week.
Residents in the village of Loughgiel, near Ballymena, were said to have endured a “frightening and very disruptive experience” after a small but viable pipe bomb was found. Roads in and out of the village were closed for the day.
A British Army bomb squad carried out a controlled explosion on the device found near a lorry, which it is believed was left overnight on Saturday.
The alert led to Sunday morning Mass at St Patrick’s Catholic Church in the village being cancelled.
Residents of 60 homes were told to remain indoors as the alert continued throughout the day.
Secretary of Loughgiel Shamrocks Gaelic sports club, Darach O’Mullan, said members of the senior hurling team were told to leave their pitch on Sunday morning.
“GAA is a big part of the community here, and it’s depressing to see people unable to access their local pitch on a Sunday as a result of this,” he said.
“The affected part of Loughgiel is usually very busy on a Sunday, with the nearby pitch, and the local church, corner shop and pub all close together. It was quite scary to see the place closed off, and I know there are a lot of older people confined to their homes who have been very worried all day. This sort of disruption is not welcome in this community.”
It is the first major incident involving the drug dealing UDA gang since they robbed and killed a terminally-ill Carrickfergus man, Glenn Quinn, two years ago.
Local DUP Assembly member Mervyn Storey said the apparent attack was a “reckless and needless action”.
Sinn Féin’s Philip McGuigan also condemned the incident. “Lots of residents would have walked passed the lorry prior to the suspect device being discovered,” he said. “It has been a frightening and very disruptive experience for residents and not something expected or welcome in Loughgiel.”