Belfast Telegraph

UDA responsible for Larne violence, says police chief

By Allan Preston

Police have blamed the UDA for violent scenes in Larne after officers faced attack from masked men.

At around 10.45pm on Wednesday night, police arrived in the Linn Road and Antiville Road areas to find a barricade of burning wheelie bins.

Approximately 30-40 masked thugs gathered near a community centre to throw bricks, bottles and fireworks at officers.

A petrol bomb was also thrown, but failed to ignite.

Fire crews were called to the scene as officers restored order.

Superintendent Darrin Jones said he believed the "wanton destruction" was in retaliation for activity by the Paramilitary Crime Task Force (PCTF) last weekend.

"My assessment is that this was orchestrated and carried out by a criminal gang coming under the badge of South East Antrim UDA," he said yesterday.

No-one was hurt during the clash, but he said the lives of residents had been placed in "grave danger".

Supt Jones would only say the PCTF operations over the weekend were "targeting all sorts of criminality" by members of the South East Antrim UDA.

No arrests have been made since Wednesday night's attack, but Supt Jones said that a full investigation is underway.

"The community can be reassured that we will be there to deal with anything that happens," he said.

"Members of the public were in grave danger. At one stage a police Land-Rover actually had to act as a buffer between the gang and a number of people in their cars."

He said there was no immediate concern that the disorder would spread to a wider area.

He added: "The Linn Road is normally a quiet residential area and this is shocking, it's so reckless to put peoples lives in danger.

"People were actually driving into a burning barricade. If someone had been seriously hurt, ambulance crews couldn't have responded."

Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson called it "incredibly frightening" for residents.

"I value the work the PSNI do on the ground in Larne but we do have a paramilitary task force now and I would call on them to up their game in east Antrim.

"It is a big job to do, but it is expected of them."

Ulster Unionist MLA Roy Beggs said that local residents were being "terrorised" while limited public resources were being wasted.

"Organised criminal activity is adversely affecting the local community," he said.

"The question that has to be asked of the organised gang leaders responsible is, what do they believe that they will achieve from burning large numbers of wheelie bins and trying to create some form of no-go area?

"They are adversely affecting the local community and wasting ratepayers' money."

Anyone with information about Wednesday night's incident is asked to contact police on the non-emergency number 101.

Alternatively, information can be given to independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Belfast Telegraph

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