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Friday, November 27, 1998 Published at 15:44 GMT


New loyalist group threatens peace

Orange Volunteers deny links with the Orange Order

A new loyalist paramilitary group has emerged in Northern Ireland, threatening new violence against the IRA.

The Orange Volunteers said they would also attack republicans released early from the Maze Prison as part of the Good Friday Agreement.

An Ulster Television journalist was hooded and taken to an unidentified location to talk to the men on Thursday night.

At a meeting which opened with a reading from the bible and closed with prayers, the organisation said in a statement: "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."

Weapons on show

Heavily-armed masked members of the group staged a show of strength with eight men in balaclavas brandishing a sawn-off shotgun, handguns, rifles, a submachine gun and grenades.

They claimed to have support across the province.

One of the members, reading from the 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 statement said the IRA's ceasefire was "just part of their long term strategy to get not just the troops out but also the British people of Ulster out too.

"We cannot and will not allow that to happen."

The masked gunman said the Orange Volunteers had been born out of frustration with "politicians' inept handling of the so-called peace process".

They are also angry 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 been recognised by the UK Government.

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 a Catholic man, Brian Service, was shot dead. Responsibility for that attack 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."





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