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Sunday Life

Rival UDA factions locked in north Belfast turf war

Jackie McDonald of Ulster Defence Association (UDA) at Linenhall Library, Belfast, where a Loyalist Declaration of Transformation was announced. Niall Carson/PA Wire
Jackie McDonald of Ulster Defence Association (UDA) at Linenhall Library, Belfast, where a Loyalist Declaration of Transformation was announced. Niall Carson/PA Wire
Bib Blair
Ciaran Barnes

By Ciaran Barnes

Opposing UDA gangs are at each other's throats over control of the terror gang in north Belfast.

Threats from the West Belfast UDA forced puppet North Belfast UDA 'brigadier' Sam 'Bib' Blair to quit the organisation earlier this month.

Crime rackets he had been overseeing in districts such as Tigers Bay and Ballysillan are now being run directly from the Shankill Road by West Belfast UDA chief Matt Kincaid.

But his bloodless coup against Blair has enraged veteran South Belfast UDA boss Jackie McDonald (right), who had been a key Blair ally, keeping him in power for the past three years.

McDonald has told UDA members he is firmly against Kincaid seizing control of the gang in north Belfast and that the UDA in the area should be independent from other units.

"Jackie isn't happy about Bib being forced out. After all, he was the one who put him in as brigadier in the first place," explained a loyalist source.

"He's warning that with the West Belfast UDA running things in north Belfast now, there will be a big rise in drug dealing."

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Police chiefs regard the West Belfast UDA as being among the biggest drugs gangs in Northern Ireland, controlling cocaine and cannabis rackets in parts of Belfast, Bangor, Newtownards and Antrim town.

Two weeks ago cops from the Paramilitary Crime Taskforce arrested two men during a drugs bust targeting the West Belfast UDA.

Following the raids, Detective Inspector Phelan accused the gang of being "heavily involved in a wide range of criminality, including extortion, the supply of illegal drugs and counterfeit goods and money laundering".

He added: "Their main objective is to line their pockets, regardless of the harm and misery they bring to people."

South Belfast UDA boss McDonald also fears that the coup that saw Blair kicked out of the organisation could be repeated on his own patch.

Several UDA members are known to be unhappy with his leadership and are growing close to West Belfast UDA figures.

A UDA source added: "Jackie is 70 years old now and can't go on for ever. A lot of the younger UDA members, particularly in Sandy Row, know this and would be happy to see him pushed out because he is anti-drugs.

"The West Belfast UDA have been in their ears saying it's time to get rid of old grandpa Jackie.

"That's why Jackie is refusing to recognise the West Belfast UDA's control of north Belfast. He knows that if he lets them get away with it, then it will only be a matter of time before they turn their attention to Sandy Row."

Speaking to Sunday Life last week, Bib Blair denied being kicked out of the UDA, saying he had taken a decision to retire from paramilitarism.

The convicted extortionist also rubbished rumours he stole thousands of pounds from the terror gang's Christmas kitty to fund his love of gambling.

cbarnes@sundaylife.co.uk

Belfast Telegraph

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