Outrage at brutal shooting of Jemma McGrath sparks UVF feud fears
Thebarbaric shooting of a young woman has led to fears of a feud between rival UVF factions.
Care worker Jemma McGrath (24) was shot five times in the lower abdomen, left arm and both legs at her home in east Belfast on Wednesday night.
The UVF was blamed for the shooting by former Belfast Lord Mayor Gavin Robinson, a local DUP councillor
It is understood there may have been a struggle at the house on Lord Street Mews which led to her being shot in the stomach before the gunmen fled down an alleyway to Trillick Street.
Neighbours of the care worker spoke of hearing her screams of agony – and said many people in the street felt terrorised.
Ms McGrath is being treated at the Royal Victoria Hospital for her injuries, which police said were not life-threatening.
Police are treating the shooting as attempted murder and said detectives were following "several lines of inquiry".
The incident comes a week after a new UVF mural was completed despite disagreements within the organisation.
The mural depicts a hooded gunman along with the quote "Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor. It must be demanded by the oppressed", which was uttered by black civil rights leader Martin Luther King.
Work initially began on a gable wall owned by the NIE in Sydenham earlier this month but was suspended following an outcry. It replaced a Belfast City Council-funded mural of footballing legend George Best.
It is understood there was a debate within the UVF over it. The outcome of the negotiations was that the mural should be completed.
It is understood that Ms McGrath, a former Ashfield Girls' High School student, had a close relationship with a loyalist leader. But it is not yet clear which faction of the divided organisation was responsible for attacking her.
The shooting has had a huge impact on the volatile loyalist community in east Belfast, with one source telling the Belfast Telegraph that older UVF men – including some ex-prisoners – are disgusted by the shooting of the young woman, while another source said it has raised fears of a bloody feud developing.
There have been 27 paramilitary-related shootings in Northern Ireland in the last year. Three of these were carried out by loyalists, while the remainder were carried out by republicans.
But this is the first time in 20 years that a woman has been the victim of such a shooting. According to police statistics, the last such attack on a woman took place in 1992.
Politicians in east Belfast reacted with horror to the attack.
Councillor John Kyle of the Progressive Unionist Party – which is linked to the UVF – said he no longer talks to the paramilitary organisation.
Dr Kyle spoke out against the new mural and has now slammed the shooting. "This shows new levels of brutality on the part of thugs in east Belfast. It is an absolute disgrace what is going on."
The UVF in east Belfast appears to have been more active over the last year. In January, PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott accused senior members of the group of orchestrating violence associated with the protests over the City Hall Union flag row. A menacing mural was completed in the Sydenham area despite community outrage, which temporarily halted work. Now the first punishment shooting of a woman in 20 years has led to fears of a UVF feud.