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Outlawed Protestant group in Belfast blamed for vigilante attack on drug dealer

Outlawed Protestant group in Belfast blamed for vigilante attack on drug dealer

An outlawed Protestant gang in Northern Ireland, the Ulster Defense Association, was blamed Tuesday for beating, tarring and feathering a Belfast drug dealer.
The unidentified man was left tied to a pole in the middle of Taughmonagh, a hard-line Protestant part of south Belfast dominated by the UDA. Photographs of the victim showed a placard draped around his neck declaring: "I'm a drug dealing scumbag."
Police and politicians blamed the UDA.
The episode renewed questions about whether the group _ which itself has been deeply embroiled in drug dealing _ will renounce violence in support of Northern Ireland's peace process, a move that would require it to cede control of many hard-line Protestant parts of Belfast.
All of Northern Ireland's rival underground armies were supposed to disarm and accept police authority as part of the Good Friday peace pact of 1998. So far only the major Catholic-based group, the Irish Republican Army, has complied.
Officials linked to the UDA insisted that Taughmonagh residents had no choice but to pursue vigilante justice after police refused to arrest a man dealing drugs from a property in the neighborhood. The Police Service of Northern Ireland rejected the allegation as absurd.
Frankie Gallagher, spokesman for a UDA-linked group called the Ulster Political Research Group, said UDA commanders had urged locals to turn to the forces of law.
"The UDA told the local community to go to the police about this. The community responded in the way it did because it had no confidence in the police," he said.
The UDA's commander in Taughmonagh, Jackie McDonald, declined to comment.
The episode underscored growing unease about a British government plan, called the Conflict Transformation Initiative, that is funneling 1.2 million pounds (euro1.75 million, US$2.4 million) into community development projects run by UDA figures.
The plan, approved before the formation in May of a new Catholic-Protestant administration for Northern Ireland, is opposed by most local politicians on both sides of the divide.
The Catholic politician whose government department is administering the project, Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie, says she will shut it down by Oct. 9 if the UDA hasn't committed fully to disarmament and peace by then.
Ritchie said the tar-and-feather attack "has no place in a civilized society. If the UDA is involved, it is a stark demonstration of the thuggery and violence which has to end if the funding to the Conflict Transformation Initiative project is to continue."
She noted that police have also blamed the UDA for stoking riots within two predominantly Protestant towns. A policeman was shot in the back but survived July 21, while rioters damaged several police vehicles Aug. 1.
The UDA killed more than 300 people, mostly Catholic civilians, from 1971 to 1994, when the group called an open-ended truce in its self-styled "war" against the IRA's support base.
Police say UDA members today run wide-ranging rackets, including extortion, prostitution, cigarette smuggling and counterfeiting. They also beat up or expel criminal rivals from areas under their control.


Updated : 2021-06-14 23:42 GMT+08:00