27/09/2002

Mediation talks likely in effort to defuse loyalist feud

Reports are circulating that mediation moves are being made to quell any further outbreak of violence between rival loyalist gangs following the dismissal of Johnny Adair from the UDA.

At present it is uncertain whether the Loyalist Commission – which was set-up as a forum for loyalists to air their grievances – is involved in these talks.

Tensions have been simmering in loyalist circles for a while now, boiling over Wednesday when Johnny Adair was ousted from the six-man UDA ruling council. Mr Adair, who holds a seat on the council, was not present at that meeting. Adair subsequently invited journalists to his home to witness him ripping up the letter of expulsion.

It is believed that the UDA commanders acted out of fear that Adair was moving to wrest control of the organisation for himself. However, it is now believed that those who forced out the Shankill Road 'C' Company commander – who is widely respected in the UDA – did not have the grass-root support needed to fulfil such a bold move.

A number of UDA members and elements within the LVF have come out in support of Adair, and the Red Hand Defenders have demanded the resignations of the east Belfast, south Belfast and south-east Antrim brigadiers, or face "military action".

The power-struggle within loyalism has already seen a senior LVF member murdered and an east Belfast UDA commander wounded in a reprisal attack last week.

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