By Anne Cadwallader
BELFAST — Most Northern Ireland observers are sure that the Ulster Volunteer Force intends to exact revenge for the recent murder of one its senior members.
A father of three, Richard Jameson, who was 46, was shot dead at his home outside Portadown on Jan. 10. The Loyalist Volunteer Force, a group of sectarian gunmen who are also deeply involved in drug dealing, are being blamed.
The extent of UVF fury is such that one is left wondering only how many victims there will be. Some LVF men have already left the country in fear.
It’s believed that when revenge comes, the toll will be high. In fact, some observers say they would not be surprised if the LVF is eliminated.
The UVF claims to be the one paramilitary group that has not broken its cease-fire, which it called in October 1994. There will, of course, be some within the organization who will argue that it should not do so now. Many others, however, will not be so moderate.
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Suspicion for Jameson’s death rests, at the moment, with loyalists in Cookstown. The LVF is resurgent and more of a force to be reckoned with in Dungannon, Ballymena, Larne and Antrim than it is in Portadown.
Most see the seeds of the shooting in events that occurred Dec. 26 at the social club attached to the Portadown football club Shamrock Park. The Portadown unit of the LVF had attended a commemoration at the graveside of its erstwhile leader, Billy Wright. After adjourning to a pub to toast Wright’s memory, one of the LVF squad punched Jameson in the face.
Jameson left the bar but returned later with a gang of UVF men wielding pick-ax handles and iron bars and began beating LVF men.
In the murky world of loyalist paramilitarism, the Shamrock Park episode was a stain on the honor of the LVF that had to be avenged. The irony, however, was that Jameson was not a man usually involved in such incidents.
While Wright was still in the UVF, leading his so-called "Rat Pack," and a highly active gunman himself in the mid-Ulster area, Jameson would have been a man he scoffed at as a "weakling" for his scruples and lack of "kills."
In relative terms, Jameson was "respectable." Local sources say it’s hard to think of a life he had ever taken during his time as a UVF leader in the district. Jameson and Wright’s units were run separately.
Jameson was buried this week at one of the largest funerals seen in Portadown in recent years, certainly the largest since Wright’s murder. David Ervine of the PUP, who attended, said the dead man was a fine and honorable person who had been killed by drug dealers masquerading as loyalists.
Speaking at the funeral, Church of Ireland rector David Hilliard said the dead man had been cruelly murdered and there was fear and worry about possible future violence, but although the parish shared a sense of shock in the callousness of his death, vengeance must be left to God alone.
He pleaded for forgiveness for those responsible and a laying aside of a desire for revenge that could never be satisfied. There were no obvious paramilitary trappings at the funeral.
The cortege was headed by Jameson’s wife, Moira, and their three children. Among the several thousand mourners were PUP spokesman Billy Hutchinson and the UDP’s Gary McMichael. Prominent Drumcree Orangeman Harold Gracey also attended.