UDA finished, says loyalist paramilitary terror group leader
A leading UDA figure last night conceded the organisation "was finished" – a sentiment echoed by a high-ranking security source.
The UDA source said the leadership of the organisation could no longer meet because of tensions between different factions.
Asked if this could mean the end of the UDA, he replied "very much so".
The comments came as a major bust-up developed within the UDA which various senior figures fear could spill over into street conflict "within hours".
Relations between the Shankill Road-based west Belfast faction and its counterparts in other areas of the city are at an all-time low, sparking fears of violence.
So volatile is the situation, it is being carefully monitored by police.
The west Belfast faction, which is aligned to UDA figures in Bangor, has been accused by those within its own organisation of being heavily involved in criminality, including drug dealing. Simmering tensions were ratcheted up when the west Belfast wing included individuals expelled from the north Belfast unit in its recent Remembrance Day parade on the Shankill Road.
On Sunday night senior Shankill and expelled north Belfast members met in a pub. Within hours graffiti appeared on the North Belfast Community Development and Transition Group's York Road premises which read 'Bunting out. NB (North Belfast) UFF'.
John Bunting is the paramilitary 'brigadier' in that part of the city. Similar messages appeared throughout the city.
Loyalist sources said they had "no doubt" Shankill UDA figures were manipulating the situation aimed at some senior figures in the paramilitary grouping. This newspaper understands three Belfast UDA leaders – Jimmy Birch, Jackie McDonald and Bunting – can no longer sit with their west Belfast counterparts.
A high-ranking security source confirmed that it was "no longer accurate to look upon the UDA as a single entity".
In September, the west Belfast UPRG, linked to the UDA on the Shankill, taunted Bunting and McDonald for attending talks aimed at rebulding relations between police and loyalist communities.
The Remembrance Day events may have proved to be the final nail in the organisation's coffin.
It led to the weekend developments of secret meetings aimed at trying to oust Bunting and the appearance of graffiti directed at him and McDonald.