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Dissident attacks provoke growing loyalist unrest

A senior loyalist leader has said there are “major concerns” in his community about the ability of the security forces to deal with the dissident republican threat.

He was responding to the recent surge in activity including the bomb at Palace Barracks in Holywood — an attack he said showed the gaps in intelligence.

“People were driving past (Palace Barracks) a couple of weeks ago and saw roadblocks on both sides of the carriageway — a number of security vehicles in each checkpoint,” the loyalist said.

“So they (the police) obviously knew something was going down but unfortunately the missing piece of their intelligence was when,” he added.

His concerns are about what could happen next — fearing “fatalities”, and the pressure that would bring to the doorstep of the loyalist leadership.

“The younger (loyalist) element believe the older leadership called it wrong — that they decommissioned far too soon.

“If this leadership wasn’t in place, God only knows where this country could end up,” the loyalist leader said.

He did not want to be identified — but was a key player in the loyalist decision-making processes which brought about the ceasefires and decommissioning.

Another loyalist paramilitary leader described the attack at Palace Barracks as “so predictable”.

“That’s all par for the course,” the UDA brigadier Jackie McDonald told this newspaper.

“Once they (the dissidents) go beyond that limit, there will be a few more people asking questions.

“The danger will come from the younger element,” he said.

He fears the dissidents will kill a member of the security forces, but said:”I don’t think there will be a knee-jerk from loyalist paramilitaries, because we are expecting it.”

That recent surge in dissident activity has included car bombs in Newry, Crossmaglen, Newtownhamilton and Holywood.

Loyalists recognise that the dissidents are getting more sophisticated in their terror campaign.

The Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) is meeting over several days next week.

The body is preparing its latest assessment of the threat, which will be completed by the end of this month.

Publication may have to wait until after the General Election.

Belfast Telegraph

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