Loyalist says feud is part of drugs war

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The Independent Online

The loyalist feud in Belfast's Shankill Road area, which has claimed three lives in recent weeks, is rooted in drugs, an Ulster Volunteer Force leader said yesterday.

The loyalist feud in Belfast's Shankill Road area, which has claimed three lives in recent weeks, is rooted in drugs, an Ulster Volunteer Force leader said yesterday.

The UVF representative was speaking at a commemoration for Brian Robinson who was shot dead by undercover soldiers in 1989 after murdering a Catholic civilian. Hundreds of UVF supporters applauded the speaker, who was not masked, when he said: "The media have denigrated this as a turf war. It is not a turf war, but a drug war."

There were fears that the event, which included a march with bands along the Shankill Road, starting in Disraeli Street, would end in a repeat of the bloodshed of two weeks ago, when seven people were injured in a gun attack on the Rex Bar. The RUC, with the Army in reserve, was out in force, and community and faction leaders also appealed for restraint.

Traditionally, the Shankill district, running parallel to the Catholic Falls Road in west Belfast, has been the heartland of the UVF, the oldest of the Protestant paramilitary groups, whose political wing, the Progressive Unionist Party, has two seats in the Northern Ireland Assembly. But the loyalist Ulster Defence Association and the Ulster Freedom Fighters, which are stronger in the east of the city, have been determined to muscle in on their rivals' territory.

All of the loyalist paramilitary groups are said to be involved in racketeering focused on protection, late-night drinking dens, drug dealing and prostitution. But the UVF also affects to be socialist and often appears more prepared than its rivals to listen to what republicans have to say.

In his speech yesterday, the UVF leader said: "The people of the Shankill Road could not stomach the destruction, pollution and deprivation being caused by the spread of the drugs trade by members of the UFF's C Company in the lower Shankill."

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