There are reports that a loyalist feud may have reignited in north Belfast following the attempted murder of an associate of a prominent loyalist.
The gun attack on Dean Rice was sparked by tensions in the loyalist Westland estate among ‘high-profile loyalists jockeying for prominence’, according to a report in the Belfast Telegraph.
Rice was shot and wounded in the back after being lured to a meeting just after midnight on Tuesday. He is said to have received a phone call and went to meet someone close to a car park in the area. As he was walking through a gap used locally as a short-cut, he was approached by a man who shot him in the back.
The gunman, who was wearing a hood and mask, is believed to have fled the scene on foot in the direction of Westland Road.
“There was a recent fall-out, this was not unexpected,” according to one loyalist. He said after the shooting he would “expect a kickback from this, there will be some kind of retaliation”.
Recent disputes within loyalism are usually caused by turf wars over the proceeds of drugs and organised crime. Loyalist paramilitaries are also said to have been coming under renewed pressure following seizures of cocaine, including one in east Belfast which led to the arrest of three men.
Rice is described as a close friend of UDA ‘dissident’ Alan McClean, who had to flee Belfast in 2008 following a previous feud alongside former UDA ‘brigadier’ Andre Shoukri. Shoukri’s close friend, former UDA leader John Boreland, was murdered as he walked to his flat in August 2016.
The pair were expelled from the mainstream UDA in 2006 and were later aligned to a loyalist faction that attempted to displace the organisation’s leadership in the north of the city.
In 2018 the attempted murder of a man in the Ballysillan area was also linked to the feud.