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UDA expels south east Antrim brigade chiefs

By Brian Rowan

The UDA leadership has moved to end a long-running stand-off with its so-called brigade in south east Antrim.

A statement from the inner council of the organisation "expelled" the paramilitary brigadier in that area and his political adviser.

The two men were not named in the statement, but are known to be the senior UDA figures Gary Fisher and Tommy Kirkham, who was once a member of the Ulster Political Research Group.

Tommy Kirkham was unaware of the move until contacted this morning by the Belfast Telegraph.

The Newtownabbey councillor said: "I have just woken up. I don't know what is going on. I would rather not say anything until I know what is going on."

The statement from the inner council was read to the Belfast Telegraph.

"After lengthy consultations with grassroots members of south east Antrim UDA, the ruling body inner council have arrived at the decision that two members from south east Antrim brigade - the brigadier and his political adviser - have from today been expelled from the UDA."

Last year, the south east Antrim brigadier sided with the Shoukri brothers when they were expelled from the paramilitary group, and he then divorced his UDA brigade from the mainstream organisation.

Last night's statement from the inner council called on "loyal members of south east Antrim brigade and their 'Beyond Conflict' group to meet with the ruling body to discuss a way forward that will seek to bring an end to the exploitation of our community".

The UDA leadership is claiming that it is responding to a mood on the ground in south east Antrim - and wants to bring that part of the organisation back into the mainstream.

A senior loyalist source said the UDA is aware that the Fisher leadership plans some kind of a rally in Rathcoole this weekend - designed to demonstrate that they are still in charge and that they have support in the area.

We are looking at a familiar loyalist pattern of events. The move against Fisher and Kirkham is the same used to remove the Shoukri leadership in north Belfast and Johnny Adair and John White on the Shankill.

It also comes within days of £1m being allocated to a conflict transformation project in loyalist areas.

Last night, a loyalist source told the Belfast Telegraph: "The UDA is now preparing its next step."

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