Third man murdered as rivalry between loyalist gangs continues

 

A third man has been murdered in Belfast in the latest upsurge in the LVF-UVF feud.

Stephen Paul (28), who is understood to have LVF connections, was shot dead on Saturday in the Wheatfield Crescent area off the Crumlin Road in north Belfast. Another man was injured in the incident, but he is not thought to be in danger.

He had survived a previous attempt on his life in 1999 when he was seriously injured. His uncle, William Paul, was also shot dead in 1998, in Bangor. He, like his nephew, is said to have been involved in drug dealing.

The latest murder victim had a substantial criminal record and had served jail terms for serious assaults on his partner.

The latest murder follows a week of rising tension over the turf war between rival loyalist gangs. The Irish Times understands that PSNI chief constable Sir Hugh Orde will address the Policing Board this week on the low-key police handling of the stand-off in the Garnerville estate in east Belfast.

Several hundred men and teenagers took to the streets of the area to ensure that LVF associates evicted from their homes did not return.

Political concern over the police response prompted criticism from both unionist and SDLP members of the board and one influential board figure said privately he was most concerned at police tactics.

Senior PSNI officers at the scene said they were involved in "evidence gathering" but did not directly intervene in the area as no crime had been reported and no complaints had been made to them.

Residents praised the UVF, claiming they had helped rid the estate of criminals and drug-dealers who were ruining life in the community.

The stand-off then moved a few miles to the north Down village of Holywood where police have mounted a significant presence to prevent a repetition of the events in Garnerville.

Northern Secretary Peter Hain denounced the latest killing as gangsterism masquerading as loyalism. He said yesterday he believed loyalists were "not planning an equivalent statement [to the IRA]". He told RTÉ: "But I think they ought to because some of the things that have been happening in unionist and loyalist communities really are an outrage. They are intolerable.

"I think it's now up to the loyalist groups, especially the Ulster Volunteer Force, to do, with the drift of history and the inevitable future that they face, and comply with disarming, and shutting down their activities and stop this tit-for-tat grisly murder feud that is going on all the time."

Progressive Unionist leader David Ervine has already stressed that his party, which has UVF links, is powerless to intervene because it has "no influence whatsoever" over those directly involved.

Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey likened the spate of murders to the UDA's attempts to root out the Johnny Adair faction from the lower Shankill area in 2003.

"This was another appalling murder," the East Belfast Assembly member said. "But it has appeared for some time the UVF will not be budged. They see a certain parallel on what they are engaged in now and what the UDA did with Johnny Adair's faction in 2003."