Belfast Telegraph

Larne arson attack linked to loyalist feud: Sinn Fein

By Allan Preston

An arson attack in Larne which destroyed two cars and caused extensive damage to the house of a local bar owner has been linked to loyalist paramilitaries, a Sinn Fein activist has claimed.

Police were alerted at around 3.20am yesterday that two cars in the driveway of a property at Magee Park had been set alight, with the flames damaging the house.

Firefighters managed to extinguish the blaze and no injuries were reported.

Former Sinn Fein MLA Oliver McMullan told the Belfast Telegraph the targeted house was in a "quiet, mixed area", belonged to a well-known local businessman and that he believed the attack had been carried out by loyalist paramilitaries.

"This is similar to other attacks in Larne - here we have again a house attacked and two cars burnt outside it," he said.

"I'm definitely saying there's paramilitary involvement here, the UVF's involved in some way.

"Again, this is stoking the fires and will keep going until someone is killed."

Mr McMullan continued: "I'm beginning to sound like a broken record but unless the police step up to the plate and send a special unit in to Larne to deal with what's going on, this is going to carry on and on. The PSNI are getting support and names from the community.

"I don't know what else the public can do."

A DUP councillor for the Larne Lough area, Gregg McKeen, said he understood the victim was the owner of a local bar. "I've heard the attack was tied to this whole issue in Larne over the past number of months," he said. "I would describe it as a feud between gangsters and unfortunately this businessman seems to be caught up in it.

"I don't know why he was targeted, perhaps it was people using his establishment. I think the police need to step up here and really take this seriously and get on the ground to get these people and bring them to justice - otherwise someone's going to get seriously injured or killed."

East Antrim Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson described yesterday's attack as "grossly irresponsible".

"It certainly sounds like what's happened before in Larne this year, but we're waiting for police to confirm if it's connected," he said.

Mr Dickson said there was a growing belief some criminals in Larne believed they could "get away with what they like".

Having met with police in Larne last Friday, he said he was "absolutely confident they have all the resources they need to tackle this problem".

Mr Dickson added: "My plea now is for people to give information to the police and to help put these people behind bars before lives are lost."

The PSNI has appealed for anyone with relevant information to call 101, quoting reference 325, or to contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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