Gun attack escalates loyalist feud

Henry McDonald, Ireland editor
Sunday January 30, 2005
The Observer

The fourth inter-loyalist feud since the start of the century escalated this weekend after a gun attack in north Belfast.

The Loyalist Volunteer Force was blamed for a shooting in front of a taxi firm in the Sunningdale area shortly before 5am yesterday morning.

Last night the larger Ulster Volunteer Force vowed to retaliate in what has become known as the 'taxi wars' of the Greater Shankill.

A spokeswoman for the Police Service of Northern Ireland said a number of staff members narrowly escaped injury when the shots were fired through the window of Sunningdale Taxis.

She said eyewitnesses reported seeing a gold Proton car driving off seconds after the shots were fired. A gold Proton car was found burnt out in Brae Hill Park, in the lower Oldpark area of Belfast, a short time later.

It is understood that the gang responsible for the shooting travelled to Belfast from mid-Ulster where the LVF is strongest.

The 'taxi wars' centre on a cab firm owned by former UVF member and co-founder of the LVF, Jackie Mahood. His drivers and their cars have been the repeated targets of gun and arson attacks over the last fortnight.

The UVF, which has been behind the attacks on Call-A-Cab, is seeking to drive Mahood out of the Shankill and destroy his business. The terror group blames Mahood for the split inside their organisation in 1996 that gave rise to the LVF and its co-leader, the late Billy 'King Rat' Wright.

Although relations have improved between the large Ulster Defence Association and the UVF following their feud in 2000, the latter has never forgiven Mahood's defection. As one UVF commander put it: 'We have long memories and infinite patience.'

In response Mahood protests that he has retired from loyalist politics and simply wants to run his business free from intimidation and the threat of murder. His brother, Davy, was murdered by the UVF during their feud with the UDA.

An Ulster Unionist councillor on the Shankill Road appealed yesterday for an end to the feuding, which he predicted will end in deaths.

Councillor Chris McGimpsey said: 'These paramilitary groups should listen very carefully to what their own community is telling them. The people of the Greater Shankill want an end to all feuding and bloodshed because their area is still suffering the effects of the first feud of August 2000 between the UVF and UDA. The people these paramilitary groups claim to be defending do not want this kind of violence occurring on their streets. They are fed up with feuding and bloodletting.'

Meanwhile, Irish President Mary McAleese apologised yesterday for remarks she made during ceremonies to mark the 60th anniversary of Auschwitz's liberation. She caused outrage in the protestant community by comparing the Nazi's campaign to spread anti-semitism among young Germans to anti-Catholic attitudes taught by Protestants.

She admitted that her remarks had been 'very clumsy' and not meant to cause offence. Her comments in Poland were particularly embarrassing for UDA chief Jackie McDonald, who has built up a strong personal relationship with the president.

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