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Paramilitaries strategy urged after murder of John Boreland

Floral tributes at Sunningdale Gardens off the Ballysillan Road in Belfast where John Boreland was murdered on Sunday. Picture By: Colm Lenaghan

CALLS have been made for a more "robust" strategy from Stormont to deal with paramilitarism in the wake of the murder of prominent loyalist John 'Bonzer' Boreland.  

As police released a 42-year-old man they had been been questioning in connection with the murder on Tuesday night, Alliance MLA Stephen Farry said the Executive had been "weak" in its response to a recent report on paramilitarism and urged it do more.

His comments came as a getaway car, believed to have been used in the murder, was found burned out in Co Antrim.

It is understood the Renault Megane was one of three vehicles police believed were used in Sunday night's gun attack.

The 42-year-old man, named locally as Stephen 'Steeky' Robinson, from the Carr's Glen area of Ballysillan, was arrested by police on Monday in connection with the murder of Boreland, who was shot dead outside his north Belfast flat.

He was questioned at Musgrave Street Station but was released unconditionally on Tuesday night.

Boreland (46), who had been warned by police in recent months that he was under threat, was shot twice in the head with a shotgun shortly before 10pm on Sunday. A close associate of Andre Shoukri, he had parted company with the mainstream UDA in 2006 and sided with a dissident faction of the organisation.

His murder is believed to be linked to ongoing tensions within the UDA.

While the mainstream organisation remains on official ceasefire, sources say members were responsible for the father-of three's murder.

Boreland survived a previous attack on his life in 2014 when he targeted along with former UDA brigadier Andre Shoukri.

In the last year there has been an escalation of tensions with ongoing attacks on property and threats to members of the mainstream north Belfast UDA by dissident members.

Recent trouble between UDA members in Tigers Bay and the UVF in Mount Vernon has resulted in the 'brigadier' of the breakaway faction, and a number of his associates, fleeing Northern Ireland in recent weeks.

The UDA is thought to have taken advantage of this unrest to murder of Boreland who had sided with a group of Union flag protesters against the former UDA leadership in north Belfast.

As part of their investigation it is understood that several senior members of the UDA were approached by police and asked to account for their movements on Sunday night when Boreland was targeted as he stepped out of his Mercedes car in Sunningdale Gardens.

A convicted loyalist 'hitman', who recently served a jail term for drug smuggling offences, has been named by sources as one of the main suspects in the carefully planned attack.

Boreland had been under surveillance on Sunday when he had been drinking in a bar in the Oldpark Road area of north Belfast.

It is thought his attackers followed him to his flat in Ballysillan where he was shot dead at close range. Floral tributes were left at the scene of the murder yesterday by friends and family.

Police believe a silver Renault Megane, a black Peugeot 307 and a motorbike were all used by the UDA gang to carry out the murder.

A car found burned out on the Seven Mile Straight, a rural road on the outskirts of Belfast, sometime on Sunday night, is believed to have been the Megane used by the killer gang.

Alliance policing spokesman Stephen Farry said the murder reinforced the need for a "robust and coherent anti-paramilitarism strategy from government".

"While we welcomed the report of three-person panel on paramilitarism, the subsequent response from the executive has been weak.

"In particular, there needs to be much more urgency given to putting in place a protocol on the 'dos' and 'don'ts' of how public agencies such as the PSNI and Housing Executive interact with paramilitary structures that does not inadvertently reinforce them but actually breaks them down.

"In the wake of this murder, I would encourage the executive to re-examine what they have produced to date."

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