When revenge stalks the streets of Belfast
The UDA wants Andre Shoukri to 'fade away'. But will the loyalist grouping also quit the stage, asks Alan Murray
John Bunting is right. Andre Shoukri should "fade away into obscurity". The irony is that John Bunting and the UDA element he represents haven't faded away either. Instead, like the more murderous Ulster Volunteer Force, it is imposing a presence in loyalist areas which is more malign than positive.
In the near future, a loyalist paramilitary will be released from Maghaberry prison after serving part of a sentence for a serious terrorist offence. The word in and around east Belfast is that he is seeking 'revenge' against a number of UDA figures.
Now whether this threat becomes reality, and whether the man in question is, as described, "a clever psycho who has access to weapons", cannot presently be verified.
It is certain he will be released from prison soon and return to his old haunts just outside east Belfast and, understandably, there is concern within the UDA - as there was about Andre Shoukri - that he will come 'looking for blood'.
The man in question, unlike Andre Shoukri, will almost certainly ensconce himself within an area that the UDA feels it controls, but their soon-to-be-released foe has associates there and friends within the rival UVF.
So, if he seeks the predicted revenge, what will the UDA do to deter his intentions?
It would be foolhardy to assert that Andre Shoukri and those around him have absolutely no access to any firearm at all, but it is an irrefutable fact that he did authorise the surrender of a quantity of UDA guns to be destroyed under the supervision of General de Chastelain.
The man soon to be released has made no indication he wishes to dispose of any guns under his control and those who speak of him certainly don't expect that a decommissioning gesture will be offered. After Shoukri was jailed more than three years ago, elements in the UDA flooded drugs into the area he once controlled. The organisation only belatedly conceded that some within their ranks were controlling the trade when a teenager died after taking drugs.
The last IMC report indicated ongoing drug-dealing activities by individuals linked with the UDA and the UVF and other active criminal enterprises controlled from within their ranks.
Shoukri and his close friends claim that a released life-sentence prisoner associated with the element Bunting represents pointed a gun at him in the Tyndale area on the Eleventh night.
He claims statements were made to police by his friends (and even firemen there on a call-out) alleging a handgun was produced.
To date, according to the PSNI, the man has not been arrested and, as far as can be ascertained, no search for a gun, real or imitation, has taken place.
Shoukri fears a situation on the streets will be engineered that will lead to him being returned to prison and wonders if the 'authorities' would connive to accommodate the demands of his foes within the UDA.
In the small area that he moves in it is inevitable he will see, even eyeball, former associates now under the command of John Bunting.
When a car he was travelling in last week halted at lights near the Shore Road office that Bunting uses, police vehicles hemmed it in. The most unusual item found was a pasting board to do wallpapering.
Shoukri was caught carrying a gun before and knows that, if he is arrested again with another weapon, he will be sent to prison for a very long time. And that he does not want.
He worries, though, that the man whom he and his friends allege pointed a gun at him on the Eleventh night has not been questioned in relation to the incident.
Not only is that the wrong message to send to Shoukri - it is also the wrong message to send to Bunting and those in his command.