Belfast Telegraph

Builders targeted by dissident thieves who burnt out diggers after failed extortion bid

By Tony Allen

Money-grabbing dissident republicans are trying to drag builders in north Belfast back into the darkest days of the Troubles.

Thieves kicked out of Óglaigh na hÉireann burned two diggers at a building site on North Queen Street last Monday after an extortion attempt was refused.

A security guard was locked in a hut while the arsonists torched the expensive machinery, which is being used to construct 26 new homes on land that was formerly a PSNI station.

This is the second time in a month a £20,000 digger on the site has been set on fire.

Like ONH, the criminal gang Action Against Drugs (AAD), which taxes drug dealers and is based in the New Lodge area, has also demanded money from the North Queen Street site run by Apex Housing.

The firm has refused to comment on the extortion attempts.

PSNI Detective Sergeant Kenneth Leckey appealed for information about the latest digger arson attack, saying the security guard was “very badly shaken”.

Meanwhile, Sunday Life can reveal that a New IRA gang based in the Ardoyne area is raking in a fortune from two other north Belfast building sites.

We are unable to identify both premises for legal reasons but can confirm hundreds of pounds are being handed over on a weekly basis.

Since forming a cell in Ardoyne in 2013, the New IRA has put thousands of pounds into its pockets via extortion.

In November of that year, the terror gang torched a £90,000 bulldozer being used in the construction of a City Council sponsored 3G football pitch at the Marrowbone Park in north Belfast.

Like last week’s attacks on heavy machinery at North Queen Street came after a protection money request was refused.

A republican source told Sunday Life: “It’s getting to the stage where builders are going to pull out of nationalist north Belfast completely.

“If you set up a construction site here you will have dissidents and criminals at your door within a matter of days demanding money.”

In response to the North Queen Street building site attacks Sinn Fein organised a protest at the gates last Thursday.

North Belfast MLA Gerry Kelly said: “This latest attack is another attempt to extort those building homes for local families in need and is quite frankly despicable.”

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