Front Page







World Summary

On Air


Talking Point


Low Graphics


Site Map

Thursday, January 22, 1998 Published at 12:16 GMT


UFF involved in Ulster murders - police chief
image: [ Ben Hughes, a Roman Catholic with no known paramilitary links, was apparently chosen at random ]
Ben Hughes, a Roman Catholic with no known paramilitary links, was apparently chosen at random

The loyalist paramilitary Ulster Freedom Fighters are directly involved in a wave of sectarian killings in Northern Ireland, Chief Constable Ronnie Flanagan has said.

He believes the terror organisation - whose UDP political representatives are sitting at the Stormont negotiating table - were responsible for gun attacks which have left three Catholics dead since New Year's Eve.

Amid a deepening security crisis and fears of more killings, Mr Flanagan revealed that more troops are to be redeployed into Belfast in a bid to thwart the hit-and-run gunmen.

A special team has also been set up to coordinate the police inquiry into the breakaway Loyalist Volunteer Force which has also carried out a number of murders since the killing of their leader Billy Wright at the Maze Prison.

The Chief Constable admitted he was deeply worried about the shootings but he said: "It's a dangerous and difficult situation but it is not out of control."

Ben Hughes, a 55-year-old father-of-three with no known links to any paramilitary organisation, became the eighth victim of the latest month-long spiral of violence. He was shot as he left the car components shop where he worked.

No group has claimed responsibility for his killing. But blame was being placed firmly at the doorstep of loyalists and it is thought the Ulster Freedom Fighters - a cover name often used by the Ulster Defence Association - could be behind the latest killing.

David Adams, of the Ulster Democratic Party, discusses the possible involvement of the Ulster Freedom Fighters (2' 52")
The Belfast-based UDA, several of whose leaders were met inside the Maze prison by Northern Ireland Secretary Mo Mowlam earlier this month, is thought to be aiding the Mid Ulster-based Loyalist Volunteer Force to carry out an offensive against random Catholic targets.

Wednesday night was the bloodiest in Belfast for many months with one person killed and two others wounded.

The first two shootings were clearly sectarian but the Royal Ulster Constabulary said the motive for the third was unclear.

The night of violence began around dusk when Mr Hughes was shot as he got into his car in a predominantly loyalist area of central Belfast.

A second man, taxi driver John McFarland, was shot in the head in the north of the city around 9 p.m. local time (GMT) after responding to a hoax caller.

He was not seriously injured and was able to drive himself to hospital.

Emergency surgery

The third victim was shot several times in the body on the predominantly Protestant Belvoir Park Estate in south Belfast, during the night.

He was taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital where he underwent emergency surgery for multiple injuries to his stomach and neck. His condition was described as "critical".

Mr Hughes was the seventh victim of a spiral of violence which was triggered by the murder of Billy 'King Rat' Wright, in the Maze prison just before Christmas.

The SDLP leader John Hume claims the paramilitaries want to continue hostilities to protect their "mafia" activities (3' 43")
A Royal Ulster Constabulary spokesman said a number of people were arrested on Wednesday night in connection with the murder of Mr Hughes, who was married with three grown-up children.

No paramilitary links

Friends said he had no republican or paramilitary links. One said: "He had absolutely no interest in politics. He was just one of those people you couldn't help liking. He was totally non-aggressive."

[ image: Mr Hughes was shot as he left his job in a DIY motor store]
Mr Hughes was shot as he left his job in a DIY motor store
Mr Hughes was hit in the head, neck and chest by about five shots when he got into his car after leaving work in Utility Street, close to the loyalist Sandy Row area.

"Bloodlust of evil people"

The Northern Ireland Political Affairs Minister, Paul Murphy, said: "This gruesome round of killings must stop now.

"They achieve nothing other than to satisfy the bloodlust of evil people. They will not deflect the Government from seeking to achieve a political settlement in Northern Ireland."

Many residents of the Sandy Row area are fed up of the tit-for-tat feuding.

One of them, Alex Main, said: "It's sad. It's not right to take a life away. It's shocking. But we still have to live in this environment."

Alastair McDonnell, an SDLP councillor in Belfast, said: "It emphasises the importance of the peace process. It must be endorsed and we must all back the talks and encourage those involved to get on with it."


Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage


[an error occurred while processing this directive] [an error occurred while processing this directive]
  Relevant Stories

21 Jan 98 | UK
Politicians dismayed by IRA's rejection of peace plan

22 Jan 98 | UK
Night of violence as Ulster peace process totters

21 Jan 98 | UK
Maze governor 'must go'

21 Jan 98 | UK
Wretched killers will not win - Blair

19 Jan 98 | UK
We will stay in talks - Sinn Fein

  Internet Links

Northern Ireland Office

Forum For Peace and Reconciliation

Republic of Ireland

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.