Three shot in loyalist feud at Belfast pub

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The Independent Online

"Ugly and dangerous" scenes of violence in the loyalist Shankill area of Belfast which saw houses ransacked after a pub shooting have been condemned by the Government.

"Ugly and dangerous" scenes of violence in the loyalist Shankill area of Belfast which saw houses ransacked after a pub shooting have been condemned by the Government.

Three men were shot during a march by an extreme Protestant group in the Shankill Road district of Belfast as simmering rivalries between loyalist paramilitary groups escalated.

Although they were not seriously injured, more trouble followed during the evening with a number of houses ransacked as paramilitaries went on the rampage in the district.

Security Minister Adam Ingram told the BBC in Belfast: "Recent sectarian attacks and dangerous scenes witnessed yesterday are to be condemned."

The disturbances broke out during a march along the Shankill Road by the illegal Ulster Defence Association, also known as the Ulster Freedom Fighters, to mark the unveiling of new murals. Local loyalist Johnny "Mad Dog" Adair was prominent in the parade.

The trouble centred on the Rex Bar, a pub frequented by members of a rival paramilitary group, the Ulster Volunteer Force. Up to 300 people had attacked the bar, and shots were fired when the crowd failed to gain entry, police said.

Four men were later taken to hospital, three of them with gunshot wounds. None of the injuries was life-threatening, hospital staff said.

The UFF was reported to have fired a volley of shots later. The UFF and UVF have co-existed in the Shankill area for decades, but violent feuding has broken out between them on occasion. The UFF is presently attempting to assert its strength in the area and to build itself into the most powerful group in the district.

Billy Hutchinson, a member of both the Northern Ireland assembly and the UVF's political wing, claimed the UFF and an allied group, the Loyalist Volunteer Force, had tried to kill men, women and children during the incident.

"This was an attempt at mass murder by the UFF and LVF and I think people have to reconsider supporting people like this and parades like the one they held today," Mr Hutchinson said. "These people don't even have a band culture, a parade culture. This was all about a show of strength and it was all about being provocative.

"This is made even worse by the fact that this pub was packed with people enjoying themselves on a Saturday afternoon, children were outside watching the parade and there was an indiscriminate attempt to kill everybody in there."

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