Shop wrecked after refusal to pay protection

 

A PROTESTANT businessman who refused to pay "protection money to loyalist paramilitaries had his flower shop in north Belfast smashed up by a gang yesterday.

Mr Clifford Peebles, a member of the Families Against Intimidation and Terror group, is now considering his options and may be forced to leave the North

Mr Peebles was riot in the shop when three men armed with baseball bats entered it and systematically wrecked the premises.

According to Mr Peebles, loyalist paramilitaries have been threatening him for nearly six months. "I was approached for protection money, he said. "I refused to pay that protection money and I told them if they nominated a prisoner's wife or family then I would maybe give them a gift and buy them something. They wanted the cash."

Mr Peebles, who is a committed Christian, added: "I can only stand for my beliefs. My beliefs are all that I am. If we keep quiet, then it goes on and goes on and goes on.

Four months ago the same people, he believes, tried to burn down his home during the night.

Pastor Jack McKee, who has contacts with loyalist groups, confirmed that other businesses in the area were forced to pay protection money.

Mr McKee said if more reasonable people in the loyalist groups did not intervene, this could become a case of a Protestant being forced out of his country by those who said their purpose was to defend Protestants.