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Flexing of muscles by terrorist gangsters

By Deborah McAleese

Since veteran loyalist Billy 'The Mexican' McFarland was forcibly stood down in 2013 the UDA in north Antrim and Londonderry has split.

There are now three separate factions under different leaders in Derry city, Ballymoney and Coleraine.

As these individuals have no one to answer to, they are becoming increasingly out of control. They are responsible for many brutal punishment attacks and a murder.

Their blatant attempts to recruit is a worrying sign of their intentions to step up their campaigns of intimidation.

The outlawed UDA has been blamed for a string of shootings and beatings across the area, including the murder of father-of-five Brian McIlhagga in January.

The organisation has also been responsible for crippling a 22-year-old, whose leg was blown off with a shotgun; kneecapping and then exiling a 15-year-old boy; trying to kill a west Belfast man in a gun attack at St James Park in Ballymoney, and the shooting a man in his early 20s in Coleraine, leaving him with potentially "life-changing injuries".

It tried to blame tensions between police and the loyalist community for the paramilitary attacks.

In May the group issued a statement claiming: "The community are reporting crime to us rather than the police in a way that we haven't seen since the ceasefire and the organisation is responding to that.

"If the Chief Constable wants to know why the UDA still exist well there's his answer - there's been no benefit in peace for loyalist communities."

PSNI Chief Inspector Catherine Magee insisted, however, that officers "have good links with community organisations across Coleraine and we work with them in tackling issues of concern".

Belfast Telegraph

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