Ireland: 'Many of Belfast's most deadly acronyms are now back in action'

The killing in Belfast yesterday of a leading loyalist and the later shooting of a Catholic man indicates that a tit-for-tat war on the streets of Northern Ireland has begun. Our Ireland Correspondent explains how the paramilitary organisations operate.

At the weekend, a senior security source spoke of the state of play within the Ulster Defence Association, one of Northern Ireland's two largest Protestant paramilitary groups.

UDA gunmen from west Belfast had killed Eddie Treanor, the Catholic man killed in a shooting attack in north Belfast on New Year's Eve, he said. The attack was claimed by the smaller Loyalist Volunteer Force but, he added, "really, the only thing the LVF supplied was the codeword for the claim".

Since then the UDA leadership had met and decided to hold itself in readiness. If Protestants were killed by republicans the UDA leaders would meet again to decide what to do. But if anyone with UDA connections was shot, no meeting would be necessary: units could go ahead with immediate retaliation.

Yesterday somebody with UDA connections was shot. Jim Guiney, killed in his carpet shop in south Belfast by the Irish National Liberation Army, was a leading loyalist associated with the Ulster Democratic Party, the UDA's political wing.

And so last night a Catholic taxi firm employee was shot and killed in south Belfast. It does not need access to intelligence assessments to theorise that it was almost certainly a UDA inspired revenge attack.

Bill Stewart, a senior RUC commander in Belfast, said: "This is another senseless and indiscriminate act which can achieve nothing, only further suffering. I appeal to all people of influence to do all in their power to prevent further bloodshed."

The cycle of tit-for-tat is a long-established feature of Belfast's macho paramilitary underworld. The INLA has struck: it is now the UDA's turn to strike back. Many of Belfast's deadly acronyms are now back in action.

The INLA has long been the joker in the republican pack. Always a separate organisation from the mainstream republican movement, the IRA and Sinn Fein once regarded them as brothers in arms. Three of the 10 hunger-strikers who starved themselves to death in 1981 were INLA members.

In recent years, however, it has tended to be derided by the IRA as small-scale, apolitical and disorganised. It also has an extraordinary tendency to turn in on itself in periodic outbreaks of feuding. These bouts are so savage that INLA members have probably killed more colleagues than they have murdered members of the security forces.

During 1996, for example, the six people it killed were made up of five men associated with it together with a nine-year-old girl killed during a feud attack. In 1997 it had only two victims, the first of whom was an off-duty RUC officer killed in a Belfast gay bar. But the second victim, was Billy Wright, the LVF figure killed in the Maze prison just after Christmas.

His death sparked off the present cycle of political tension and violence, with three Catholics killed in retaliation by the LVF and one by the UDA. Although the fact that Eddie Treanor was a victim of the UDA is common knowledge, most in the political world have turned a Nelsonian blind eye.

This is because the UDP, the UDA's political wing, is one of the eight parties in the Stormont multi-party talks. Although it is one of the smaller parties there, it has added significance in that its moderate political approach is very much to the liking of both London and Dublin.

Similarly, security sources are convinced that the recent attempted murder of a man in a bar in south Belfast was the work of the IRA, acting under the fig-leaf of yet another acronym, DAAD (Direct Action Against Drugs.)

Strictly speaking, anyone at the Stormont talks table connected to organisations still active in violence is supposed to face expulsion. But everyone knows that ejecting the UDP would seriously damage the talks process, as well as probably sending the UDA back into all-out violence.

This helps explain why few inquired too deeply when the UDA was last year seen to be responsible for two deaths - that of a Catholic civilian and one of its own members killed in a mysterious "own goal" explosion. This became known as the "no claim, no blame" syndrome: the UDA did not admit involvement, and most politicians glossed over the question of responsibility

The prospect is, however, that the UDA might now attempt to take its revenge on a scale which simply could not be ignored. A number of shots were fired in the attack which killed Eddie Treanor, but only one of them came from a machine-gun. The fact that the weapon apparently jammed may have saved many lives that night.

But the grim possibility is that this time the UDA will be intent on exacting its revenge on a larger scale. If it succeeds, Ulster will face both security and political crises which could test the peace process to its limit.

Suggested Topics
Voices
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
News
A cleaner prepares the red carpet for the opening night during the 59th International Cannes Film Festival May 17, 2006 in Cannes, France.
newsPowerful vacuum cleaners to be banned under EU regulations
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
A polar bear’s diet is rich in seal blubber and half of its own body weight is composed of fat
i100
News
London is the most expensive city in Europe for cultural activities such as ballet
arts
Travel
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson has rejected criticisms of his language, according to BBC director of television Danny Cohen
tv
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
football
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Desktop, Surrey)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Deskto...

Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Desktop, Surrey)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Deskto...

Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost, Data Mining

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...

Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Support, Help desk)

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape