Belfast Telegraph

Sunday Life

Tensions within notorious north Antrim UDA brigade

Terror gang veterans want deposed leader Billy "The Mexican" McFarlane to boot out criminals who now run the organisation.

By Chief Reporter Ciaran Barnes

UDA veterans are urging a deposed leader to come out of retirement and take on the "criminals" they say are ruining the organisation and threatening the peace.

The plea to Billy 'The Mexican' McFarlane follows yet another punishment attack on the north coast in which a man was badly beaten with baseball bats.

Since the veteran loyalist was forcibly stood down in the summer of 2013 the UDA in north Antrim and Londonderry has hopelessly split.

It is now effectively three separate factions operating under different leaders in Derry city, Ballymoney and Coleraine.

As these individuals have no one to answer to they have been doing as they please without fear of retribution.

And not only are these new bosses up to their necks in crime, they have also welcomed back into the UDA fold criminals previously expelled from the terror gang including Ian Hanson, 35, and 36-year-old Graham Harkness.

Last month the out of control north Antrim UDA abducted a man they were extorting in Portrush and beat him in Ballywillian Cemetery.

The attack was carried out on the orders of the terror gang's steroid-pumped Coleraine commander.

It follows on from a rival UDA leader in Ballymoney ordering a punishment attack on small-time drug dealer Brian McIlhagga, who ended up being shot dead when he fought with his assailants.

In recent times the north Antrim UDA has also been responsible for:

l Crippling Stephen Clyde, 22, whose leg was blown off with a shotgun;

l Kneecapping and then exiling to Belfast 15-year-old Matthew Campbell from Coleraine;

l Trying to kill a west Belfast man in a gun attack in the St James' Park area of Ballymoney.

UDA sources told Sunday Life that the north Antrim and Londonderry brigade has "gone to the dogs".

They also issued a plea to convicted bombmaker Billy McFarlane to return as leader to stabilise the terror gang.

"We're nothing more than a criminal gang at the moment - extorting drug dealers and shooting anyone who won't pay," a UDA insider explained.

"There is a lot of tension between the different areas as well, the leader in Londonderry isn't even talking to the leader in Coleraine.

"There is also a real groundswell to have Billy McFarlane come back to steady the ship."

The latest example of UDA extortion in north Antrim took place on the evening of January 20 in Portrush.

A man was ordered by the terror gang to hand over £20,000, and when he could not pay was told to meet a 'punishment' team in the Hopefield area.

"The fella was picked up in a red Volkswagen Golf and taken to Ballywillian Cemetery where he was given a bad kicking," added our source.

Police are investigating the attack and have appealed for witnesses.

Detective Chief Inspector Catherine Magee said: "The man was taken from the Hopefield Grove area of Portrush and driven to the cemetery at around 9pm.

"He was then beaten with pipes or bats by two other men."

The Portrush cemetery assault was the first violent attack carried out by the north Antrim UDA since the murder of Brian McIlhagga on January 5.

The fatal shooting was only supposed to have been a beating, but when the father of four fought back he was blasted in the leg with a shotgun causing him to bleed to death.

McIlhagga was set up by a UDA pipebomber who has only recently returned to Ballymoney.

Our source said: "This fella was expelled from the UDA by Billy McFarlane and had to move to Portstewart, but was allowed back in after Billy was stood down.

"He took control of planning the McIlhagga attack to get himself back in the good books of the UDA boss in Ballymoney."

Loyalist outcasts Ian Hanson and Graham Harkness are another two who are back in the fold.

Hanson, who in 2002 was jailed for 12 years for possessing loaded UDA weapons and balaclavas, has returned to Coleraine after being exiled to Ballymena for stealing money.

But before being allowed back in the town he had to agree to be shot in the calf by the UDA in a pre-arranged token punishment attack.

Hanson was also charged in connection with the 2001 sectarian murder of Catholic John McCormick in the town's Ballysally estate. He wasn't convicted.

"Hanson has spent the past six months licking up to the UDA boss in Coleraine, his brown-nosing would make you sick," said our source.

"He had to agree to be shot before being taken back into the UDA, and was picked up by arrangement at the back of the Harpur's Hill shops, and got a bullet in the calf."

Graham Harkness - who lives in Macosquin near Coleraine - is back in favour after being expelled for running off with cash.

The thug previously served a seven year prison sentence for allowing his car to be used in the 2004 loyalist feud murder of Darren Thompson.

Other "undesirables" who now have senior positions in the north Antrim UDA include 38-year-old John Gamble.

He was once jailed for 12 years for possessing a shotgun, pistol, cricket bat and balaclavas, and is now based in the Waterside area of Derry City.

Sunday Life can also reveal the UDA's current '2IC' (second in command) in Coleraine is a loyalist bandsmen with a long-standing drug problem.

Another thug back in favour is a self-confessed Nazi supporter who was based along the north coast but is now living in Maghera. Loyalist sources have claimed he was the gunman who blasted Stephen Clyde with a shotgun in Portrush at the end of 2013 causing him to lose his right leg.

In 2008 the far-right sympathiser forced a Bulgarian family to flee their Portbalintrae home after repeatedly attacking their coffee shop in Bushmills.

Our UDA source said: "The nut-case who shot Stephen Clyde had been living in England for 18 months after being put out of the country by Billy McFarlane.

"But he came back after Billy was stood down and to get into the UDA's good books he personally shot Stephen."

The UDA insider explained how Stephen Clyde had been involved in a dispute with the cocaine snorting UDA '2IC' in Coleraine.

"There was a lot of bad blood between both men so the Nazi shot him in return for being allowed back in the UDA.

"This shows you the state of the organisation at the moment," added our source.

"It's filled with headbangers and gangsters who hid from the Provos when the Troubles were taking place.

"They are running loyalism into the ground and veteran members of the UDA need to take a stand against them."

cbarnes@sundaylife.co.uk

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