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‘Freelance’ ONH group behind pub firebombing

By Evan Short

A ‘freelance’ ONH group, working separately from the west Belfast leadership, was behind the burning of an Oldpark bar in an attempt to curry favour locally.

The North Belfast gang, who are only loosely affiliated with the ONH leadership in the west of the city, torched The Corner House bar in April.

And the North Belfast News can reveal that the same gang was behind the burning of a nearby taxi depot in 2012. Then, the business was burned after the owner refused to be extorted by the gang.

The same men are also believed to be behind the shooting of a man on the Oldpark Road last February. The 24-year-old was shot as he stood beside a car talking to another man, who was also injured in the attack. It is understood they targeted their victim after being paid by another man with whom he was in dispute.

After the Corner House was targeted on April, 2 the ONH leadership released a statement in which they claimed responsibility and made allegations about the bar, all of which were denied by the owners.

However the attack was in fact the work of four North Belfast men who had been members of ONH but split last year after one of their gang fired shots in the air at an Easter commemoration in Ardoyne.

This was seen as a direct challenge to the west Belfast based leadership who had ordered their members not to engage in shows of strength without their say so.

This caused the North Belfast gang to split from the group, while the man who fired the shots left to join the so-called New IRA.

His departure to that group then led to a partial reconciliation of the ‘freelance’ and main ONH however a source told the North Belfast News that the gang in the north still operate independently.

“Part of the reason they quit ONH in the first place was because they don’t trust the leadership, so them coming back in now is an embarrassing climb down. However they are still operating on their own as there is a lot of distrust between the two factions.”

The North Belfast News contacted the owner of The Corner House but he was unavailable for comment. At the time of the attack, Michael Markey said he had no idea why the attack had taken place.

As to why ONH had taken the North Belfast group back into the fold our source said: “As long as they are paying ONH a cut from their other activities such as extorting drug dealers they are welcome to remain in the fold.”

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