We Are One Bullet Away from War, Say Loyalists

Danielle Ni Dhighe nidhighe at irsm.org
Tue Jul 23 18:00:55 MDT 2002


London Times
23 July 2002

We Are One Bullet Away from War, Say Loyalists
By David Lister

Northern Ireland's largest loyalist paramilitary group gave warning
last night that it would kill again unless a republican "onslaught"
against Protestants was ended.

The Ulster Defence Association said that it had murdered a Roman
Catholic teenager and that it would not hesitate to take "further
military action". The group claimed that, until the killing on Sunday
night of Gerard Lawlor, 19, it had resisted repeated attempts by the
IRA to force it to breach its ceasefire.

The Ulster Freedom Fighters, the UDA's military arm, said in a
statement: "Last night the onslaught against the Protestant community
by the republican gunmen was met with a measured military response
from the UFF. We warn republicans that further attacks on our
community will be met with further military action."

The warning will put fresh pressure on the Government to take firm
action in the House of Commons tomorrow when it responds to repeated
breaches of the republican and loyalist ceasefires.

The UDA's ceasefire has not been recognised by the Government since
last autumn, but the admission of murder yesterday will put pressure
on John Reid, the Northern Ireland Secretary, to have its leaders
arrested; their identities are well known. Many UDA members were
freed early from prison under the Good Friday agreement and, under
the terms of their release licences, could be sent back to jail. The
UDA has no formal political arm.

Until yesterday the Government was under pressure to censure Sinn
Fein over allegations of renewed IRA activity, but the problem of
loyalist paramilitaries, rather than republicans, has now been thrust
to the forefront.

Security sources believe that the killing of Mr Lawlor was almost
certainly sanctioned by the loyalist terrorist Johnny "Mad Dog"
Adair, who was released from jail two months ago.

One Belfast loyalist, with close links to the UDA, defended the
murder of Mr Lawlor, who was preparing to move in with his girlfriend
and 18-month-old son. He was shot dead while walking home from a pub
in the Whitewell area of North Belfast.

The senior loyalist said that Mr Lawlor had been killed in
retaliation for a gun attack on Sunday evening in which a Protestant
teenager was seriously injured. He said: "We're one bullet, one
fatality away from the war starting again. They (the UDA) were
determined on Sunday night to put a body on the streets so they
persevered until that happened. They wanted a confirmed dead and they
got it."

There were conflicting reports about which group was behind Sunday's
attack on a 19-year-old Protestant in the Ardoyne area of North
Belfast. The IRA has privately told the UDA that it believes the
attack was carried out by the INLA, a republican splinter group. But
security sources were far from convinced. "This has all the hallmarks
of the Provisional IRA," one said. "They got exactly the response
they were after, which is a dead Catholic killed by Protestants and
they can sit there with their halos intact feeling very pleased with
themselves."

The UDA carried out several gun attacks over five hours, including
one which left a Catholic injured, before it killed Mr Lawlor. His
mother said yesterday that she wanted no retaliation.

Most of the attacks are thought to have been carried out by the UDA's
North Belfast brigade, where there is a new commander, Andre Khaled
Shoukri, who is of Egyptian extraction and is said to be intensely
loyal to Mr Adair.

Detective Superintendent Roy Suitters urged the paramilitaries to
subdue violence in North Belfast: "When a 12- year-old on one side of
Belfast throws a stone, someone on the other side of Belfast ends up
being killed. Somehow, somewhere, this has to stop."

John Ashcroft, US Attorney-General, asked the State Department
yesterday to list the Loyalist Volunteer Force and the Ulster Defence
Association/Ulster Freedom Fighters as terrorist groups. The list
includes 39 other groups.


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