Ex-loyalist prisoner is put behind bars after Belfast riots

David McKittrick@IndyVoices
Thursday 17 April 2014 04:15

A loyalist ex-prisoner, said to have orchestrated last week's fierce rioting in the Ardoyne district of north Belfast, has been sent back to jail on the orders of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, John Reid.

Gary Smith, 37, believed to be a leading figure in the Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF), was arrested at his home in the Shankill area yesterday and taken to Maghaberry prison, where he joined close associate Johnny "Mad Dog" Adair behind bars.

They are the only two of hundreds of inmates released under the Good Friday Agreement to be reimprisoned for breaching the terms of their licence. No republican has been sent back to jail. Mr Reid is said to have acted on an RUC Special Branch report that linked Smith to the north Belfast riots and other paramilitary activity. Smith is also suspected of having connections with another paramilitary group, the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF).

The LVF and elements of the UFF are said to be preparing for violence early next month, when the annual Drumcree parade in Portadown, Co Armagh, is expected to be halted by the authorities.

In 1995, Smith was jailed for 16 years for conspiracy to murder but was freed four years later under the early release scheme associated with the Good Friday Agreement. The scheme allows the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to order their recall to prison.

Rioting in Ardoyne at first involved police, loyalists and republicans, but latterly republicans held back so that most of the disturbances involved only the RUC and loyalists. The riots tailed off at the weekend after several violent nights, though the trouble did not end completely. The Smith arrest followed an early-morning incident when a loyalist mob attacked Catholic homes. Houses and cars were damaged by paint bombs, bottles and stones.

Later yesterday, the Catholic primary school was forced to close because of the discovery of a suspect bomb. Army bomb disposal experts dealt with a package that had been fastened to railings, carrying out a controlled explosion on it. The device was later declared a hoax.

Last week, the Royal Ulster Constabulary Chief Constable, Sir Ronnie Flanagan, said there was evidence that the UFF had been orchestrating the loyalist violence, and there were reports that Adair was encouraging confrontation from his prison cell.

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