Belfast Telegraph

Flags row: One of the biggest crime gangs in Northern Ireland, and it’s out of control

Loyalist protesters on their way to Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protesters on their way to Belfast City Hall
Police clear road of debris on the lower Newtownards Road. Jan 8 2013
Lower Newtownards Road. Jan 8 2013.
Lower Newtownards Road. Jan 8 2013.
Lower Newtownards Road. Jan 8 2013.
Lower Newtownards Road. Jan 8 2013.
Lower Newtownards Road. Jan 8 2013.
Lower Newtownards Road. Jan 8 2013.
Lower Newtownards Road. Jan 8 2013.
Lower Newtownards Road. Jan 8 2013.
Lower Newtownards Road. Jan 8 2013.
Lower Newtownards Road. Jan 8 2013.
Lower Newtownards Road. Jan 8 2013.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 8th January 2013 - Trouble breaks out on the lower Newtownards Road this evening.A campaign of street demonstrations has been ongoing since Belfast City Council took a vote on 3 December which limited the number of days the union flag is flown at Belfast City Hall.Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Lower Newtownards Road. Jan 8 2013.
Riots on the lower Newtownards Road January 7 2013
Loyalists protesting in Belfast. January 7 2013
Loyalists protesting in Belfast. January 7 2013
Loyalists protesting in Belfast. January 7 2013
Loyalists protesting in Belfast. January 7 2013
Loyalists protesting in Belfast. January 7 2013
Riots on the lower Newtownards Road January 7 2013
Riots on the lower Newtownards Road January 7 2013
Riots on the lower Newtownards Road January 7 2013
Riots on the lower Newtownards Road January 7 2013
Riots on the lower Newtownards Road January 7 2013
Riots on the lower Newtownards Road January 7 2013
Riots on the lower Newtownards Road January 7 2013
Riots on the lower Newtownards Road January 7 2013
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - Monday 7th January 2013 - Trouble breaks out on the lower Newtownards Road after loyalists protested in Belfast city centre this evening as the monthly meeting of Belfast City Council takes place inside Belfast City Hall.A campaign of street demonstrations has been ongoing since Belfast City Council took a vote on 3 December which limited the number of days the union flag is flown at Belfast City Hall.Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Riots on the lower Newtownards Road January 7 2013
A car burns in the Castlereagh Street of east Belfast
A burned out car during disturbances which erupted in east Belfast
Police on patrol during disturbances which erupted in east Belfast
A car burns in the Castlereagh Street of east Belfast
A car burns in the Castlereagh Street of east Belfast
A car burns in the Castlereagh Street of east Belfast
A car burns in the Castlereagh Street of east Belfast
PSNI in Castlereagh Street of east Belfast
A car burns in the Castlereagh Street of east Belfast
PSNI officers in Castlereagh Street of east Belfast
A car burns in the Castlereagh Street of east Belfast
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - Sunday 6th January 2013 - A car burns in the Castlereagh Street of east Belfast this evening following a loyalist protest. A campaign of street demonstrations has been ongoing since Belfast City Council took a vote on 3 December which limited the number of days the union flag is flown at Belfast City Hall. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
A car burns in the Castlereagh Street of east Belfast
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - Sunday 6th January 2013 - A car burns in the Castlereagh Street of east Belfast this evening following a loyalist protest.A campaign of street demonstrations has been ongoing since Belfast City Council took a vote on 3 December which limited the number of days the union flag is flown at Belfast City Hall.Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
A car burns in the Castlereagh Street of east Belfast
Loyalist protesters block of the Newtownards Road Belfast where shots are reported to have been fired on Saturday January 5 2013
Loyalist protestors converge on Belfast City Hall. Picture date: Saturday January 5, 2013
Loyalist protestors converge on Belfast City Hall. Picture date: Saturday January 5, 2013
Loyalist protestors converge on Belfast City Hall. Picture date: Saturday January 5, 2013
Loyalist protestors converge on Belfast City Hall. Picture date: Saturday January 5, 2013
Loyalist Protestors converge on Belfast city hall. Picture date: Saturday January 5, 2013. Ongoing protests and demonstrations continue at the removal of the Union flag from the city hall. The protest was largley peacfull with only minor skermishes.Picture Mark McCormick.
PSNI officers on the Lower Newtownards after a Loyalist flag protest at Belfast City Hall
Willie Frazer at loyalist protests near Belfast city hall. Picture date: Saturday January 5, 2013
Loyalist protestors converge on Belfast city hall. Picture date: Saturday January 5, 2013
Loyalist protestors converge on Belfast city hall. Picture date: Saturday January 5, 2013
Loyalist protestors converge on Belfast city hall. Picture date: Saturday January 5, 2013
Loyalist protestors converge on Belfast city hall. Picture date: Saturday January 5, 2013
Loyalist protestors converge on Belfast city hall. Picture date: Saturday January 5, 2013
Willie Frazer talks to Sara Girvin as loyalist protestors converge on Belfast city hall. Picture date: Saturday January 5, 2013
PSNI officers on the Lower Newtownards
SNI officers on the Lower Newtownards
PSNI officers on the Lower Newtownards
Loyalist flag protest at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist flag protest at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist flag protest at Belfast City Hall.
PSNI officers on the Lower Newtownards
PSNI officers on the Lower Newtownards t
Loyalist flag protest at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist flag protest at Belfast City Hall
PSNI officers on the Lower Newtownards
PSNI officers on the Lower Newtownards
PSNI officers on the Lower Newtownards
PSNI officers on the Lower Newtownards
PSNI officers on the Lower Newtownards
PSNI officers on the Lower Newtownards road, Belfast January 5 2013
Castlereagh Street area of east Belfast following loyalist rioting January 3 2013
Flag protest at Cluan Place, January 3 2013
Flag protest at Cluan Place, January 3 2013
Flag protest at Cluan Place, January 3 2013
A burning barricade on the Newtownards road area of Belfast, where police have been targeted by rioters
Flag protest at Cluan Place, January 3 2013
Flag protest at Cluan Place, January 3 2013
Flag protest at Cluan Place, January 3 2013
Flag protest at Cluan Place, January 3 2013
Carrickfergus flag protest. January 2, 2013
Carrickfergus Flag Protest, January 2 2013.
Loyalists across Northern Ireland have been protesting since councillors in Belfast voted to limit the number of days they fly the Union flag
Loyalist protestors and PSNI officers pictured at Belfast City Hall on 22 December 2012
Jackie McDonald has warned that loyalist protests cannot succeed in having the Union flag reinstated above Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors and PSNI officers pictured at Belfast City Hall on 22 December 2012
Loyalist protestors and PSNI officers pictured at Belfast City Hall on 22 December 2012
Loyalist protestors and PSNI officers pictured at Belfast City Hall on 22 December 2012
Loyalist protestors and PSNI officers pictured at Belfast City Hall on 22 December 2012
Loyalist protestors and PSNI officers pictured at Belfast City Hall on 22 December 2012
Loyalist protestors and PSNI officers pictured at Belfast City Hall on 22 December 2012
Loyalists block the Sandy Row area of Belfast as part of a mass protest over flags
Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt and First Minister Peter Robinson were among those holding talks about the Union flag dispute in Belfast
Loyalists protesting around the village area in south Belfast December 17 2012
Loyalists protesting, blocking traffic in Derry
Loyalists protesting, blocking traffic in Derry
Loyalists protesting, blocking traffic in Derry
Loyalist hold protests around the village area in south Belfast
Loyalist hold protests around the village area in south Belfast
Loyalist hold protests around the village area in south Belfast
Loyalist hold protests around the village area in south Belfast
Loyalist hold protests around the village area in south Belfast
Loyalist hold protests around the village area in south Belfast
Loyalists taking part in a protest over the restrictions of flying the Union flag protesting outside Belfast City Hall
Up to 1,000 people took part in the cross community Peace Gathering in Belfast city centre
Loyalists in Belfast have been protesting against a decision to reduce the number of days the Union flag will fly from City Hall
Protest outside the Alliance Party office in East Belfast belonging to Naomi Long, following the decision by Belfast City Council to stop flying the union flag every day. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday December 4, 2012. See PA story ULSTER Flag. Photo credit should read: Paul Faith/PA Wire
Alliance party office which was set on fire in Carrickfergus after a protest rally over the Union flag
Alliance party office which was set on fire in Carrickfergus after a flag protest
Alliance party office which was set on fire in Carrickfergus after a protest rally over the Union flag
Alliance party office which was set on fire in Carrickfergus after a protest rally over the Union flag
Alliance party office which was set on fire in Carrickfergus after a protest rally over the Union flag
Alliance party office which was set on fire in Carrickfergus after a protest rally over the Union flag
Alliance party office which was set on fire in Carrickfergus after a protest rally over the Union flag
Alliance party office which was set on fire in Carrickfergus after a protest rally over the Union flag
Alliance party office which was set on fire in Carrickfergus after a protest rally over the Union flag
Police in Carrick come under attack from protestors following a fire at the Alliance party office
Police in Carrick come under attack from protestors following a fire at the Alliance party office
Aftermath of riots in Carrickfergus. Photograph by Mark Winter
Aftermath of riots in Carrickfergus. Photograph by Mark Winter
Loyalist hold protest at Naomi Long's east Belfast Alliance office following a council vote last night which will see the Union Flag only follow certain days. Loyalist protesters pictured on the Newtownards Road during the protest
Loyalist hold protest at Naomi Long's east Belfast Alliance office following a council vote last night which will see the Union Flag only follow certain days.
Northern Ireland- 4th December 2012 Mandatory Credit - Photo-Jonathan Porter/Presseye. Loyalist hold protest at Naomi Long's east Belfast Alliance office following a council vote last night which will see the Union Flag only follow certain days. Loyalist protesters pictured on the Newtownards Road during the protest.
Northern Ireland- 4th December 2012 Mandatory Credit - Photo-Jonathan Porter/Presseye. Loyalist hold protest at Naomi Long's east Belfast Alliance office following a council vote last night which will see the Union Flag only follow certain days. Loyalist protesters pictured on the Newtownards Road during the protest.
Northern Ireland- 4th December 2012 Mandatory Credit - Photo-Jonathan Porter/Presseye. Loyalist hold protest at Naomi Long's east Belfast Alliance office following a council vote last night which will see the Union Flag only follow certain days. Loyalist protesters pictured on the Newtownards Road during the protest.
Northern Ireland- 4th December 2012 Mandatory Credit - Photo-Jonathan Porter/Presseye. Loyalist hold protest at Naomi Long's east Belfast Alliance office following a council vote last night which will see the Union Flag only follow certain days. Loyalist protesters pictured on the Newtownards Road during the protest.
Northern Ireland- 4th December 2012 Mandatory Credit - Photo-Jonathan Porter/Presseye. Loyalist hold protest at Naomi Long's east Belfast Alliance office following a council vote last night which will see the Union Flag only follow certain days. Loyalist protesters pictured on the Newtownards Road during the protest.
Northern Ireland- 4th December 2012 Mandatory Credit - Photo-Jonathan Porter/Presseye. Loyalist hold protest at Naomi Long's east Belfast Alliance office following a council vote last night which will see the Union Flag only follow certain days. Loyalist protesters pictured on the Newtownards Road during the protest.
Northern Ireland- 4th December 2012 Mandatory Credit - Photo-Jonathan Porter/Presseye. Loyalist hold protest at Naomi Long's east Belfast Alliance office following a council vote last night which will see the Union Flag only follow certain days. Loyalist protesters pictured on the Newtownards Road during the protest.
Loyalist hold protest at Naomi Long's east Belfast Alliance office following a council vote last night which will see the Union Flag only follow certain days. Loyalist protesters pictured on the Newtownards Road during the protest
Loyalist protestors carrying Union flags clash with police outside the City Hall in Belfast
Loyalist protestors carrying Union flags clash with police outside the City Hall in Belfast
Loyalist protestors carrying Union flags clash with police outside the City Hall in Belfast
Loyalist protestors carrying Union flags clash with police outside the City Hall in Belfast
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall
Loyalist protestors pictured at Belfast City Hall

By Brian Rowan

In this month six years ago the Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams stepped onto the Newtownards Road in east Belfast.

It was one of those big headline days in the peace process as someone identified with the republican enemy came across the lines to pay his respects at the funeral of a loyalist leader.

David Ervine’s story spanned the war and peace of this place — caught with a bomb and jailed before he began a long journey into the world of politics. At the time of his sudden death on January 8, 2007, he was a Stormont MLA and leader of the PUP, the party with political links to the UVF.

The most senior leaders of that organisation were inside a packed church when Adams arrived for the funeral, and Jeanette Ervine will never forget that moment: “It was extraordinary and it was wonderful to see him welcomed.

“That it was allowed to happen, I believe, was out of respect for David,” she said.

But, six years later, she describes recent events as both depressing and very sad.

“I hear people say this process isn’t a peace process, but it’s a lot better than what we had.”

Today, Gerry Adams couldn’t step onto the Newtownards Road. Not in this climate of fury linked to the City Hall flag row.

Six years later, this part of east Belfast has been dragged back in time and is seen today within a frame, not of peace but of street mayhem.

And the images of those battles are a reminder of the old days and old ways, and a reminder also that the UVF has not yet completed its exit from the stage.

“East Belfast is like a circus,” said one source, a person who knows the place inside out. “And people don’t know the way through it.”

What he does know is the identity of the senior UVF figures in east Belfast who are directing the street violence.

“Those are the two top players,” he said, naming the men in question before making this wider observation about the UVF organisation.

“There’s already a split and it needs to be called.” What he meant is there are those within the so-called east Belfast battalion who are not under the control of the central leadership based on the Shankill Road — what in the paramilitary world is styled as the brigade or command staff.

“The whole province is being held to ransom by 20 people,” he continued, meaning those senior figures in east Belfast and their closest associates.

And he recalled the words of a senior detective who he said had described the UVF in east Belfast as one of “the biggest criminal gangs in Northern Ireland”.

Money, crime and drugs are all part of a toxic mix.

Up to this point the central UVF has not cut its east Belfast battalion loose for fear of another maverick or renegade organisation emerging similar to the Loyalist Volunteer Force.

So, the pretence for now is of one organisation at a time when a significant chunk of it is out of control.

The overall leader of the UVF is now in his late 60s, maybe battle- weary and no longer able to rule his entire roost.

And in east Belfast his battalion commander sits back and allows those immediately next to him in rank to direct a violent street play.

He hasn’t stepped in to stop it, and according to a security source, it is not because he can’t, but rather he won’t.

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph