Questions mount over loyalist violence

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The PSNI have been accused of playing down a loyalist campaign of terror in the Coleraine area after a series of petrol bomb attacks were blamed on UDA paramilitaries.

The PSNI have said only that they are investigating a possible link between the attacks.

In the latest incident, a window was smashed and damage caused to the front door of a home. A woman who was in the house at the time survived the attack.

It is the tenth such attack in the town in the five months since April.

Earlier this month, a bomb was thrown at a man’s house. When he opened his front door, he found a bomb alight. He put it out with water, although the door’s window pane was damaged.

Even unionist hardliner Gregory Campbell has called on the PSNI to “spell out” the connection between the series of attacks.

Meanwhile, in West Belfast, a well-known retail outlet is reported to be being used by the UDA as a front to distribute drugs and launder the proceeds. The PSNI has admitted that a cache of drugs and weapons found last week were linked to the gang.

Details have also emerged recently of how another loyalist paramilitary gang, the UVF, are operating a cross-border racket to import cocaine worth hundreds of thousands of pounds into east Belfast.

Since the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, unionist paramilitary groups have been tacitly allowed to operate criminal empires with minimal interference from the state. But there are signs that approach has evolved into a new era of British/loyalist collusion.

Over the sumer, loyalists threatened a return to conflict over Brexit after the 26 County Foreign Minister and other attendees at a peace event were targets of a UVF bomb hoax. The arrest and subsequent release on bail of top UVF paramilitary figure ‘Winkie’ Irvine only reinforced rumours of collusion in the attack.

Queens University Professor Colin Harvey has been attempting to raise the issue of unionist political violence and intimidation. He hinted at the continuing control of loyalists by government agencies and noted that, afer raising the issue, he himself had become a target for online abuse, threats and ‘cancellation’.

“How, approaching 25 years after the GFA, are there armed groups - like the UVF and UDA - threatening the peace process over the Protocol?,” he asked.

“Armed groups that appear to be little more than glorified ‘drug gangs’. Groups historically riddled with state agents.”

He added: “On the assumption – based on past evidence – that there are Covert Human Intelligence Sources operating within loyalist armed groups – what role, if any, have they had in the anti-Protocol protests here?

“Who benefits?”

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