UDA gangsters smashed up a pub belonging to the daughter of a veteran loyalist amid a broadening feud over loyalist crime rackets.
The ‘Bar Berlin’ in the loyalist heartland of the Shankill Road is managed by the daughter of West Belfast UDA chief Jim Spence. The attack by 20 masked men has been widely blamed on a former leader in the same organisation, Mo Courtney.
The incident happened shortly after 7pm on Friday night last week when a mob armed with baseball bats and hammers entered the pub and went on a wrecking spree.
Customers and staff were ordered out while windows, furniture, mirrors, pictures, glasses and bottles were all smashed for almost half an hour.
It comes after weeks of rising tensions on the Shankill, with a number of people put out of the area and others warned about their involvement in the drugs trade.
The increasingly bitter rivalry between paramilitaries aligned with the UVF and UDA is said to have opened up new turf disputes in loyalist areas across the North, but the violence is purely about the proceeds of drugs crime.
The Berlin Bar incident has been described as an attempt by Courtney to expand his empire. According to a loyalist quoted in the Sunday World, Courtney “is sending out a warning that he is the top dog, he is the major drug dealer on the Shankill and he won’t let anyone stand in his way”.
Tensions between the groups in Carrickfergus, County Antrim has caused violence in recent months following a UVF show of strength there. A failed drug deal involving elements of South East Antrim UDA and the UVF in Portadown has been blamed or the trouble.
Fallout from the deal gone wrong resulted in a prominent figure being subjected to a beating. The bad blood also resulted in a ‘show of strength’ by dozens of UVF supporters outside the home of one of the UDA-linked men involved in the deal.
UDA drug bosses are also blaming the UVF for revealing its cocaine dealing activity in the loyalist heartland of Newtownabbey, County Antrim, where quantities of arms have also been seized.
Loyalist paramilitaries are under pressure ahead of the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, with fresh questions over the apparent impunity with which the gangs operate rackets ranging from loan-sharking to rent-a-mobs.
The Dublin government has also requested an audit of all grant aid spent in the North after it emerged some of those involved in recent political violence are on the receiving end of bogus taxpayer-funded ‘peace’ schemes.