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Monday, 14 January, 2002, 15:16 GMT
UDA godfathers 'directing murders'
A UDA/UFF mural in Belfast
UDA's ceasefire was declared over last year
Paramilitary godfathers leading the southeast Antrim brigade of the Ulster Defence Association are understood to have sanctioned the murder of a Catholic postman in Newtownabbey.

Twenty-year-old Danny McColgan was shot dead as he arrived for work at the sorting office on the loyalist Rathcoole estate in the early hours of Saturday morning.

Daniel McColgan: Murdered in Rathcoole by the UDA
Daniel McColgan: Murdered in Rathcoole by the UDA

Initially, the UDA brigade used the cover name, the Red Hand Defenders, to admit carrying out the murder. But it then admitted responsibility. The police also said they believed a UDA faction was behind the shooting.

The UDA has now extended the threat to all Catholic postal workers and school staff and teachers in north Belfast which it says are "legitimate targets".

It is just the latest threat from the southeast Antrim UDA, which is suspected of directing a string of recent sectarian murders and attacks in the north Belfast and Antrim areas.

BBC Northern Ireland chief security correspondent Brian Rowan said the Red Hand Defenders has been the cover name the UDA has used to hide behind for some time.

He added: "It has been used most by one of the UDA's six brigades - the UDA in southeast Antrim, which is suspected of involvement in the murder of Danny McColgan at the weekend.

"And if you look at the pattern of activity linked to the UDA in southeast Antrim, you will find that this is the same UDA that killed a young Protestant, Gavin Brett, in Newtownabbey, thinking that he was a Catholic.

Gavin Brett: Murdered in Newtownabbey by the UDA
Gavin Brett: Murdered in Newtownabbey by the UDA

"It is the same UDA that was linked to an attack on a Catholic church in Glengormley, the same UDA that issued threats against a Catholic service in Carnmoney cemetery, and the same UDA that was behind the murder of a Catholic man Gavin Moore in Monkstown 13 months ago.

"This is a part of this organisation which has been particularly active over the last year, and particularly active in terms of sectarian violence."

Brian Rowan said the southeast Antrim brigade had been responsible for an upsurge in UDA violence long before the whole paramilitary group's ceasefire was declared over by Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid in October 2001.

A UDA gunman on the Shankill Road, 2001
UDA defied the government after ceasefire was declared over

This followed an increasing UDA rejection, particularly within that brigade, of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which its political allies in the Ulster Democratic Party helped to negotiate during cross-party talks.

The brigade's current leader was never drawn into that process because he was not then a member of the UDA's decision-making inner council.

Brian Rowan said: "The person who leads the UDA in southeast Antrim is a former prisoner.

"One source said to me that he is driven by pure, absolute bigotry.

"He was probably one of the godfathers that the chief constable referred to in recent interviews.

"The chief constable said these godfathers keep themselves clean and send out others to do their dirty work."

Brian Rowan added: "The UDA leader in southeast Antrim is one of those too, who has destabilised the UDA and taken it away from a ceasefire position to involvement in sectarian murder and to a position where that organisation no longer supports the Good Friday Agreement.

The UDA's formal rejection of the Agreement in a statement last summer was followed by the dissolving of the UDP as a political party.

Brian Rowan said the UDA leadership believed charges of directing terrorism would have been brought against some elements of the UDA after Dr Reid declared the government no longer recognised the UDA ceasefire.

However, no charges of directing terrorism have resulted.

Billy Hutchinson has called on UDA to reject violence
Billy Hutchinson has called on UDA to reject violence
Meanwhile, Billy Hutchinson, a north Belfast assembly member for the Progressive Unionist Party, which has links to the rival loyalist paramilitary group the Ulster Volunteer Force, said it was "time for loyalism to think where it was going and where one or two people could drag loyalism".

The UVF is still on ceasefire, while the PUP, which also helped to negotiate the Agreement, has two members in the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster on Monday, Mr Hutchinson said: "I would appeal to those people in the UDA, who have parents, sons and daughters in the UDA or had grandparents in the UDA, to think about where we could be going.

"There is an opportunity here for us all to move forward, but there is also an opportunity to drag up back to the bad old days of the early 1970s."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC NI's Brian Rowan
"The UDA in south east Antrim is suspected of Danny McColgan's murder"
PUP assembly member Billy Hutchinson
"Loyalism needs to think about where it is going"
See also:

12 Jan 02 | Northern Ireland
UDA admits postal worker's killing
08 Jan 02 | Northern Ireland
SDLP seeks UDA prosecutions
31 Jul 01 | Northern Ireland
Loyalist violence threat to peace
31 Jul 01 | Northern Ireland
'Bigots murdered my son'
13 Oct 01 | Northern Ireland
Politicans assess ceasefire end
12 Oct 01 | Northern Ireland
UDA ceasefire: 1994 - 2001
17 Jan 01 | Northern Ireland
UDA upsurge in violence
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