North Belfast UDA 'on their own' against Mount Vernon UVF
MEMBERS of a dissident faction of the UDA in north Belfast, who were instrumental in removing the former brigadier, have fled after coming into conflict with a UVF unit in Mount Vernon.
The north Belfast UDA, currently made up of a small gang of former flag protesters, was put in place following the arrest of senior loyalists John Bunting and former UDA prisoner John Howcroft in August 2014.
The pair were arrested and charged with an alleged gun attack on Andre Shoukri and John Boreland, however, the charges were later dropped after the key witnesses withdrew their statements.
A new leadership of renegade loyalists based in Tigers Bay seized control of north Belfast and a man who had came to prominence during the loyalist flag protests replaced Bunting as 'brigadier'.
His position was endorsed by the more powerful west Belfast UDA, but sources say since then the area has descended into chaos with families having been forced from their homes and an increase in the number of paramilitary style assaults in the area.
Loyalist sources say the self appointed 'brigadier' has made significant enemies, including trying to force a female relative of veteran UVF leader John 'Bunter' Graham from Tigers Bay by threatening her.
Tensions are now at an all time high after the son of a senior Mount Vernon UVF man was attacked by the UDA with a sword leaving him seriously injuries, needing almost 30 stitches.
The UVF retaliated by attacking a member of the north Belfast UDA with hammers and wrecking a shop owned by a local loyalist.
On Monday a large mob of UVF men from Mount Vernon gathered in the Shore Crescent area of north Belfast in a 'show of strength'.
Several members of the UDA including the 'brigadier' have now fled after being warned they were under threat.
The man was at at first staying at a caravan park on the Ards Peninsula, but is since believed to have left Northern Ireland.
A senior UDA source told the Irish News that the west Belfast leadership has "washed their hands" of the self appointed leader and told the Mount Vernon UVF he will not be getting any protection from them.
"You go to war with Mount Vernon you go to war with the entire UVF, no one is prepared to do that, especially not for a handful men who were only ever flag protestors and have caused nothing but headaches since they took over," said the source.
The PSNI said that shortly after 9.30pm on Monday, "police received reports of a large group gathering in the Shore Crescent area of north Belfast".
Inspector Kelly Moore said: "Police attended the area and maintained a presence until the crowd dispersed.
"There were no reports of any offences and no complaints were made to police. Enquiries into the incident are ongoing at this time."
Police have maintained an increased presence in the area since Monday.