A FEUD at the heart of the Tigers Bay community is escalating to the point where someone may die, a leading loyalist has warned.
John Howcroft, a member of the UDA-linked North Belfast UPRG, said that “criminals” and “drug dealers” unhappy at progress within the community are edging closer to killing someone, following the latest in a series of attacks by disaffected former UDA men.
On Monday, two cars belonging to North Belfast Community Development and Transition Group (NBCDTG) worker Leanne Marshall and her 19-year-old student daughter were torched close to their home on the Limestone Road.
Leanne, who has two other children, aged eight and one, is well known in the area for her work with UDA ex-prisoners and ex-combatants as well as a wide range of cross-community work.
The attack is the latest in a series linked to a UDA splinter group, who have capitalised on growing community tensions linked to the flag protests to drum up support.
Earlier this month, Leanne was working in the Groundwork NI offices in Duncairn Gardens when a pipe bomb was thrown at the car of leading loyalist John Bunting, sparking a security alert.
And just last week, a car belonging to the partner of John Howcroft was also set alight at her Alliance Road home.
Now John Howcroft has called on police to step up their efforts to stem the growing tidey of violent acts, which he has described as “narcoterrorism”.
“Community workers in loyalist areas of North Belfast are now being openly targeted by criminals and drug dealers keen to build their own criminal empires in North Belfast,” he said. “This is totally unacceptable and must now become the main focus for bringing additional policing and statutory resources into North Belfast.
“All acts of intimidation arising from criminality must be condemned and dealt with as a priority by the PSNI and others. The personal safety and wellbeing of community workers in North Belfast is paramount."
Speaking to the North Belfast News, Leanne Marshall said that the attack had left her and her children afraid in their own home but that she would not be deterred from carrying out her community work.
“I’m a community worker within the area and have been for many years and lately, more or less from the flag protests kicked off, everybody is anti-cross-community and I think that’s one of the reason,” she said.
“I’m not accusing flag protesters but tensions in the loyalist communities have intensified since then and whoever is responsible for these attacks don’t want cross-community, they don’t want progress, and I believe they are still stuck in the mindset of the past.
“Police and other agencies need to step up to plate with these attacks because there is going to be a point when people can’t carry out this community work and where is that going to leave Northern Ireland?”
Sinn Féin Councillor Mary Ellen Campbell voiced her concerns that loyalist violence may spill over into interface areas.
“Naturally there is concern that this activity might have an impact on these interfaces and already I’ve seen sinister attempts to implicate the nationalist community in some of these incidents,” she said. “The PSNI need to ensure that the interfaces remain quiet and they need to deal with those involved in this loyalist violence.
“I’m calling for unionist leaders and community activists to make every effort to bring this cycle of violence to an end before someone is seriously injured or someone loses their life.
“Unfortunately we have many years of experience dealing with interfaces and when internal loyalist tensions emerge they can often spill over into these sensitive areas as those involved seek to deflect attention from their activity.”