Belfast Telegraph

Sunday Life

UDA puts its paintbrushes beyond use...

Terror group in a huff over minister's funding threat

By Alan Murray

The UDA has stopped replacing paramilitary murals in protest against Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie's demand for the beginning of weapons decommissioning.

But loyalist sources say the 'inner council' element of the terror group has no longer term strategy to get out of the 60-day funding stranglehold the SDLP minister has headlocked it into.

Police reports that UDA elements attached to the organisation's Londonderry/ north Antrim Brigade have targeted the home and car of SDLP MLA John Dallat and Sinn Fein's Billy Leonard have raised fears of a backlash against the minister's announcement.

But reliable sources in different UDA strongholds say there's more of a tongue lashing session taking place.

One veteran UDA man in Belfast said: "This is a leadership failure. People have been running about the last week like headless chickens holding meetings when this situation should never have arisen.

"Everybody, and that includes the 'ceasefire soldiers' in Bangor, should have been called in and told in no uncertain terms that nothing like that destruction could be allowed to take place, no matter how many police raids there were.

"They didn't get the message or they didn't understand the message. In the old days they would have done what they were told."

Sources say they don't expect the organisation to return to violence, even for a brief period.

"It is a 'no brainer'. Nobody wants to see a situation like what happened in Bangor happening anywhere else. It's a political cul de sac," one community worker said.

"The UDA man in Bangor who orchestrated the rioting isn't too popular, but what he unwittingly may have done is forced the leadership to seriously embrace the decommissioning reality.

"They're saying that no more UFF murals will be painted over or repainted with George Best or David Healy images, but there's no appetite for new violence.

"There's a blame game going on, particularly in Belfast, and a couple of people are being knifed in the back because of the trap they allowed the organisation to walk into."

He added: "Margaret Ritchie was itching to do this and she was given two penalty kicks in Carrick and Bangor."

Security sources say the Bangor raids which sparked the rioting were directed against one particular UDA leader and his criminal activities, although all paramilitary figures involved in crime are on their radar.

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