By Anne Cadwallader
BELFAST — The loyalist feud shows no sign of ending after the Ulster Defense Association rejected a public appeal from the Ulster Volunteer Force to distance itself from its so-called "C Company" on the Shankill Road, which the UVF has accused of being a "gang of drug-dealers who had brought shame on loyalism."
Despite calls for talks from the UDP, the PUP, the Ulster Unionist Party leader, David Trimble, and the Northern Secretary, Peter Mandelson, not only is there no sign of these, but not even agreement on who should mediate.
The UDA statement, issued on Monday evening in Belfast, reads: "C. Company, 2nd battalion UDA/UFF, based around the Lower Shankill area is and will remain an integral part of our organization.
"Attempts to isolate and demonize that company are doomed to failure and can only make a resolution of the current dispute infinitely more difficult than they already are.
"Whilst the dispute is largely localized, a viable and durable resolution can only be achieved if that resolution is all encompassing. Quis Separabit."
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The UVF has insisted there is no prospect of a resolution of the loyalist feud, which has left three dead, several injured and dozens of families homeless, until the Lower Shankill UDA is disbanded.
In the past week the feud spread to areas such as Coleraine, Co. Derry, and Carrickfergus and Larne in County Antrim. Early on Sunday, shots were fired at a house in Carrickfergus. No one was injured.
Early on Saturday morning there was an attack on the home of an unidentified PUP supporter in North Belfast. PUP East Belfast assemblyman David Ervine condemned the firebomb attack, which scorched the front window and a fence. He said the homeowner had never been involved in paramilitary activity and said his party would not be intimidated by such incidents.
"This attack is not the first on the PUP and, unfortunately, it probably won’t be the last," he said. "But we’ve got a job to do and we’ve got to maintain our view of decent society and the absence of violence."
David Adams of the UDP has called for a meeting between his party and the PUP to give a lead to the feuding paramilitary groups they represent. Adams said a quick fix on the Shankill Road might be tempting but only a proper mediation process would work in the long term.
"I think what should happen now is that people like myself should move to a situation where instead of pontificating via the airwaves and the newspapers, we should get the thing actually resolved. The two parties starting to talk to each other on genuine and realistic terms is as good a starting point as any," he said.
Trimble has called for a police crackdown on the feuding loyalists. "What we can’t have is this development of a Mafia sub-culture and the way in which it is gripping local communities in some areas," he said.
The DUP leader, the Rev. Ian Paisley, also expressed outrage.
"Houses that they are burning, the people that they are attacking have a flag, a Union flag, an Ulster flag, flying outside their homes," he said. "Here we have people who say they are for God and Ulster and they are prepared to destroy their own kith and kin, doing the dirty work for the IRA."