By Anne Cadwallader
BELFAST — The paramilitary Ulster Defense Association and rival Ulster Volunteer Force announced an end to their five-month-long conflict last Friday.
Seven men were murdered, several in front of their wives and children, during the feud which bitterly divided the loyalist community in Belfast.
But the loyalists fell short of reconstituting their "umbrella group," the Combined Loyalist Military Command, and settled instead for a mediation process in a bid to prevent further outbreaks of bloodshed.
Observers believe the deal is fragile and may not last long.
A statement ending the feud was released Friday afternoon, after 14 leading figures in the UDA and UVF, and the latter’s sister organization, the Red Hand Commandos, met in Belfast.
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Meanwhile, the continuing tensions within loyalism were made all too clear on Monday when a UDA man was found murdered in north Belfast. The murder is thought to have been connected to a dispute within the loyalist paramilitary UDA, not involving the UVF.
The victim, who was in his 20s, had a single bullet wound to the back of the head. A large sum of money was found on the body, which was heavily tattooed with loyalist insignia.
The dead man had been badly beaten before being shot. A woman found his body behind a row of houses. He had apparently been murdered elsewhere and dumped on Sunday night.
The dispute between the UDA and the UVF erupted in Belfast in August over a combination of personal rivalries, the proceeds of drug deals and political disputes over whether to support the Good Friday peace agreement.
During the violence, about 200 families were forced out of their homes. Friday’s statement said that there had been a "series of intense negotiations by the inner council of the UDA, brigade command of the UVF, and the brigade staff of the RHC".
Though they are at peace again with each other, loyalists are still involved in violent attacks on nationalists. They are being blamed for leaving a pipe bomb in a nationalist area near Castlewellan, Co. Down, on Tuesday, Dec. 12. Also that day, a family escaped injury after a pipe bomb exploded outside the front door of their home in County Antrim.
Families were also forced to evacuate their homes in Ballymoney, Co. Antrim, on Wednesday, Dec. 13, when a pipe bomb was discovered on the windowsill of a house in the Ballinamore area.
And the beleaguered Catholic chapel in Harryville, Co. Antrim, was again the target of a sectarian arson attack. Property in the grounds of the Church of Our Lady was damaged. On Friday night, a Catholic Church Hall in County Antrim was extensively damaged in an arson attack.
It’s the third time St. Macnissi’s on the Chapeltown Road near the village of Kells has been attacked in recent months. The blaze caused extensive damage to the roof and stage area.
Meanwhile, Northern Secretary Peter Mandelson has moved to block the early release of UDA leader, Johnny Adair, from jail. Adair was sent back to jail three months ago after he had been photographed cheering at armed displays of loyalist intimidation in Portadown and Belfast.