A UDA splinter group locked in a power struggle with mainstream members in the Tigers Bay area of North Belfast have been accused of trying to stir up further tension by blaming republicans on their latest attack.
On Monday (August 4) a security alert was sparked in the Duncairn Gardens area after a viable pipe bomb was thrown at the parked car of leading loyalist John Bunting outside the offices of Groundwork NI.
A number of businesses and homes had to be evacuated as Army technical officers dealt with the viable device, which damaged the windscreen of the vehicle but did not explode.
It is believed the attack is part of an ongoing feud between loyalist factions in the area that have boiled over since mainstream members were seen to be taking a ‘soft’ approach on the decision to limit the flying of the Union flag over City Hall.
Police confirmed that an eye-witness reported seeing a man running off in the direction of Tigers Bay, however following the incident, a social media account linked to the faction suggested that republicans were trying to provoke a reaction and raise tension at the interface area.
The North Belfast UPRG twitter account, which carries the tag line ‘under new management’, wrote: “I hope the republicans r not trying 2 get a reaction from loyalists with 2 days incident on duncairn gardens.”
A 27-year-old man was arrested in relation to the attack but was released pending further enquiries.
The incident is not the first time that dissident loyalists have been accused of carrying out attacks and blaming nationalists.
Earlier this year nationalists youths were originally blamed on a car being torched in the Hallidays Road area before evidence later emerged of men making off in the direction of Tigers Bay, while organised social media interface fights were deemed “republican incursions” by some elements of the community.
Community worker John Howcroft said that he did not believe republicans were involved in the attack and condemned the attack calling those responsible “cowards”.
“They are backward thinking criminals with nothing to offer the decent people of North Belfast,” he said.
“If their intention was to provoke a reaction and drag North Belfast back into the past then they will be sorely disappointed.”
It was originally reported that the device was aimed at the offices of community regeneration group Groundwork NI, although a spokesperson for the group said that they were not the intended target.
Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly called on “anti-peace process loyalists who seem intent on disrupting efforts to build bridges and develop communities” to stop.
“Those responsible have absolutely nothing to offer society and need to call an immediate halt to these kind of actions.”
DUP Cllr Guy Spence said that “incidents like this should be left in the past and have nothing to offer to the community”.