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Gun-toting loyalists 'will attack' freed republicans.

A new loyalist terror group has emerged in Northern Ireland to threaten a fresh campaign of violence against the IRA. The self-styled Orange Volunteers also warned of attacks against republicans freed early from the Maze Prison as part of the Good Friday peace agreement. A statement said: "We are prepared to defend our people and if it comes to the crunch we will assassinate the enemies of Ulster. "Ordinary Catholics have nothing to fear from us. But the true enemies will be targeted, and that's a lot wider than just Sinn Fein and the IRA." Heavily-armed masked members of the paramilitary group staged a show of strength as they made the threat. Eight men in balaclavas produced a sawn-off shotgun, handguns, rifles, a submachinegun and grenades. They claimed they had support throughout Northern Ireland. One of the men, reading from a prepared statement, said: "This organisation cannot allow republican prisoners to walk free with impunity while wives and families of people have to visit the graves of their loved ones murdered by republican scum. Those prisoners are fair game." The man said he did not believe the IRA's war was over. "It is just part of their long term strategy to get, not just the troops out, but also the British people of Ulster out too," he claimed. "We cannot and will not allow that to happen." The masked gunman claimed the Orange Volunteers had formed because of frustration at "politicians inept handling of the so-called peace process". They are also furious at what they call the "deplorable situation" at Drumcree. He described the group as a rejuvenated organisation but denied it had any links with the Orange Order or with the Loyalist Volunteer Force whose ceasefire has now been recognised by the Government. Ulster Television journalist Ivan Little was hooded and taken to an unidentified location to talk with the men on Thursday night. At a meeting which opened with a reading from the Bible and closed with prayers, the organisation also produced a "covenant" setting out its aims. It said: "We are defenders of the reformed faith. Our members are practising Protestant worshippers." The group claimed responsibility for a series of attacks on nationalist businesses and bars throughout Northern Ireland a month ago. The RUC said the only incident they investigated at the time was reports of shots being fired at a pub on the Colinglen Road in west Belfast. The attack happened on the night Catholic Mr Brian Service was shot dead, but that was claimed by another loyalist group calling itself the Red Hand Defenders. A police spokesman said: "We are aware of this incident and the matter is under investigation." Meanwhile, police last night questioned a man after the discovery of six grenades and six detonators at a mission hall in the loyalist Woodvale Road area of North Belfast. It is believed the find was linked to the loyalist dissident group, the Red Hand Defenders. l The house where three young brothers were killed by loyalist firebombers at the height of the Drumcree Orange Order crisis is to be replaced by a play park, it was announced yesterday. It is one of a row of six houses to be flattened in Ballymoney, Co Antrim, to make way for a children's park in memory of the Quinn brothers - Richard, aged 11, Mark, aged nine and Jason, aged eight. They were murdered when their home was petrol-bombed in a sectarian attack last July. Their mother was a Catholic, but they attended a Protestant school. Heightening tensions over the developing Drumcree protest were blamed for the killings, which shocked the world and forced dozens of terrified neighbours to flee the estate where it happened. No one has been charged with the murders.
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Author:Kite, Melissa
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Nov 28, 1998
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