In the most recent attacks, three homes were damaged in shooting incidents linked to the feud within loyalism. There are real fears that loyalists may use the expected lowering of police guard over Christmas to launch more murder bids.
Shots were fired at the home of Tommy Kirkham, who is a member of the self-styled Ulster Political Research Group, which is linked to the UDA leadership. Kirkham, a Newtownabbey councilor, said he was in the house with his son when the attack happened. Neither was injured.
At the same time, a number of shots were fired at a house off the Crumlin Road in North Belfast. It is understood the same house was attacked last week. Shots were also fired in the loyalist Rathcoole estate also in North Belfast.
All the incidents are the latest attacks connected to the feud between lower Shankill loyalist Johnny Adair and members of the UDA, who expelled him from its leadership in September for “bringing it into disrepute.”
Two men were arrested and two handguns and a motorcycle seized by police on Thursday in what loyalist sources say was a bid to shoot Adair dead as he traveled to pick up his daughter from school.
The police said one of their officers was struck by a vehicle while chasing after a man. He is in a stable condition in hospital.
Police security patrols have been increased in an attempt to keep the rival factions apart. And a British Army helicopter can be seen hovering over the Shankill Road on many days.
Unionist political leaders in Northern Ireland came under new pressure Friday to publicly denounce loyalist paramilitaries. Mark Durkan, the SDLP leader, has demanded a clear message from Unionists that they were not prepared to tolerate loyalist violence.
“Catholics want to hear from Unionist politicians a condemnation of loyalist paramilitaries that is unequivocal and as urgent as the demands they make on republicans,” he said.
“No indulging of lies about provocation and retaliation. No underplaying of loyalist paramilitaries’ relentless sectarian violence against vulnerable innocent Catholics — not just passing criticism of loyalists as a warm up to a real go at republicans.”
Meanwhile, the Loyalist Volunteer Force has threatened to kill motorists from the Republic. It warned that anyone driving a Southern registered car is a “legitimate target”.
It’s understood the threat was issued on behalf of the LVF by loyalist Jackie Mahood. Irish banks and other financial institutions as well as trucking firms were also listed as “legitimate targets”.
Mahood warned that if there was any move towards what the LVF sees as “joint authority,” it would sanction actions against Irish people south of the border.
In July 2000 Mahood was injured when shots were fired at his car and in November 1997 he was shot twice in the head by two UVF gunmen in his taxi office on the Upper Crumlin Road.