Loyalist paramilitaries declare new war of terror in Ulster: Political assassinations and no-warning bombs may be added to the tactics of Protestant gangs, reports David McKittrick - UK - News - The Independent

Loyalist paramilitaries declare new war of terror in Ulster: Political assassinations and no-warning bombs may be added to the tactics of Protestant gangs, reports David McKittrick

NORTHERN Ireland is bracing itself for a wave of loyalist violence. All the indications suggest that extreme Protestant groups intend to step up their activities to new levels. They have already doubled their killing rate in the past two years, but the signs are that they aim to increase it still further - and there are fears that they are planning political assassinations and the use of no-warning bombings.

Loyalists have already openly warned that they will intensify their violence 'to a ferocity never imagined'. Security sources say that this is no empty threat and intelligence reports indicate plans for violence on a scale not seen since the Seventies. They are particularly worried that loyalist rhetoric about what was described as 'the pan- nationalist front' means that not only republicans but also constitutional nationalist politicians are under threat.

The security assessment is supported by community activists in loyalist areas. One said: 'Some of these new paramilitary leaders won't listen to anybody. The old guard would at least listen to you, but some of the new ones - you just can't talk to them at all.'

The largest loyalist paramilitary group, the Ulster Defence Association, has in recent years replaced older leaders with younger and more militant men. It was banned by the Government last year, partly on the strength of intelligence reports that its leaders were uninterested in politics and were intent only on more shootings. But the ban has been of little practical help to the RUC in arresting activists, and there are signs that the detection rate is falling. Loyalist killings are at their highest point since the worst days of the Seventies. For two years now they have exceeded those of the IRA.

The traditional killing fields of north Belfast and mid-Ulster are as dangerous as ever, and violence has increased in south and east Belfast where extreme Protestants killed 16 people last year. In south Belfast, some of the killings appear to indicate loyalists venting their disapproval of a rising Catholic population.

As has always been the case, the majority of loyalist victims are non-political Catholics, often killed at random. Only four of last year's 38 victims were known republicans, and only one was involved in paramilitary activity. Eight more had a family connection with republicans but were not themselves known to be involved. In one case, the elderly parents of an IRA man were shot dead; in another, the brother of a former Sinn Fein councillor was killed.

Twenty of the dead had no known political or paramilitary associations, including eight who died in UDA 'spray jobs' - indiscriminate attacks with automatic weapons on crowded betting shops in Belfast. Loyalist groups often claim that their victims are associated with republican groups; these claims are mostly spurious, and often disputed by the families of the dead, by priests and by Sinn Fein. Most tellingly, they are often dismissed by the security forces. Police witnesses regularly testify at inquests that the victims had no republican associations.

In one recent example, at the inquest into the death of a Catholic claimed by loyalists to be a member of the IRA, a detective said: 'On the contrary, he was very well thought of in the community and he had never come under adverse police attention.'

Loyalist violence has, however, always been more nakedly sectarian than that from the republican quarter: the extreme loyalists tend to regard the Catholic community as a whole as the enemy, and lose little sleep when an uninvolved Catholic is killed.

Several factors have contributed to the steady rise in violence. In the early Eighties, loyalist activity was at a low level, but the increased polarisation and political uncertainty that followed the 1985 Anglo-Irish agreement brought a rise in killings. The unmasking of the British Army's intelligence agent Brian Nelson, together with the hurried departures of two other informers, may mean that loyalist ranks are not so well penetrated by the security forces as in the past.

The new apolitical UDA leadership has been markedly less inhibited than its predecessors, while a consignment of arms as part of a deal with South African agents four years ago means the illegal armoury is probably better stocked than ever.

Another contributing factor may have been the lack of success of the Northern Ireland political talks. The huge gap that they exposed between Unionist and nationalist ideas may have reinforced the notion that the problem is beyond political resolution and can only be settled by violent means.

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape
music
News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
filmMatt Damon in talks to return
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Life and Style
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
tech(but you can't escape: Bono is always on your iPhone)
Sport
FootballFull debuts don't come much more stylish than those on show here
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig is believed to be donning skies as 007 for the first time
Arts and Entertainment
Fringe show: 'Cilla', with Sheridan Smith in the title role and Aneurin Barnard as her future husband Bobby Willis
tvEllen E Jones on ITV's 'Cilla'
News
i100
Sport
Tim Wiese
sport
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Latest stories from i100
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

Project Manager with some Agile experience

£45000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsf...

Data/ MI Analyst

£25000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client are cur...

KS1 Teacher Cornwall

£23500 - £40000 per annum: Randstad Education Plymouth: Randstad Education Ltd...

Corporate Communications Manager - London - up to £80,000

£60000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Corporate Marketing Communications M...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week