UDA chiefs have pledged to do “all that’s needed to ensure a DUP election victory in North Belfast.
The paramilitary group has thrust itself into the heart of the battle in the north of the city – the most contentious seat in the country. They have followed up threats issued to the Ulster Unionist Party members by removing Sinn Féin election posters across the constituency. Masked UDA men armed with ladders took down John Finucane posters during the week and it is understood they intend targeting posters wherever they can.
Sitting MP “Deputy” Dog (Nigel) has condemned threats against UUP staff but this week Sinn Féin called on the party to make clear its opposition to loyalist paramilitary groups. North Belfast is a straight shoot-out between Dodds and Finucane with the DUP deputy leader defending a narrow 2,000 vote majority. The party has long had the support of the UDA. In the past paramilitary leaders have ordered their members to vote DUP and in some instances members have distributed election literature. There are now fears election canvassers campaigning for Finucane may come under pressure, with concerns being raised about personal security.
Masked UDA men remove SF candidate’s posters
The revelation that Shankill bomber Sean Kelly is on the ground campaigning for Belfast Lord Mayor Finucane has further fuelled tensions. There is fury the mass killer has been given a high-profile role in the campaign a stone’s throw from the scene of the 1993 Shankill bomb which cost nine innocent lives and that of Kelly’s fellow bomber Thomas Begley.
Loyalist sources in the north of the city say the UDA leadership sees victory in North Belfast as essential. Hundreds of people attended a public meeting in the area last week (organised by Jamie Bryson and his cohorts in the UVF) to express opposition to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal.
The previous week a number of high-profile paramilitary figures attended a similar meeting in the east of the city. According to sources there is genuine anger and unease at the Johnson proposals, but they were quick to dismiss fears of a return to violence. “Anger is one thing but we know resorting to violence will be like shooting ourselves in the foot,” said one source.
“But we will not stand back and let Sinn Féin have a free run and we will do whatever we can to impede their campaign.” Former Stormont minister Carál Ní Chuilín said Sinn Féin had complained to police after the banners were taken down on Belfast’s Oldpark Road. “Only last week, the UDA threatened members of the Ulster Unionist Party simply because the party had indicated it might field a candidate in the election in North Belfast.
“Those threats were made only days before the UUP said it would not enter the contest, giving a clear run to the DUP.” The incident came after Sinn Féin contacted the police on Monday about “vile posters erected by loyalists” in the Shankill Road area attacking John Finucane, his family “and the memory of his father Pat, who was murdered by a UDA death squad colluding with the state”. Ms Ní Chuilín said that in the latest incident, men with their faces covered mounted a ladder to remove Sinn Féin election posters from the Oldpark Road”. “Our party has made a complaint to the police about this criminal act of theft,” she added. “There is a responsibility for these threats and attempts to demonize John Finucane to be condemned across the board and a duty on the police to take these actions seriously. “It’s time for the DUP to make it clear it supports without any equivocation the democratic process and to put distance between itself and active loyalist paramilitary groups engaged in intimidation and threats to kill.”
With many thanks to the: Sunday World and Richard Sullivan for the EXCLUSIVE original story