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Monday, 21 August, 2000, 09:49 GMT 10:49 UK
Mediation call in loyalist feud
Hundreds cheered on a UDA/UFF show of strength
Hundreds cheered on a UDA/UFF show of strength
A leading loyalist has called for a mediator to be appointed to settle a dispute between rival loyalist groups which erupted into violence on west Belfast's Shankill Road.

Ulster Democratic Party chairman John White said tension remained "sky high" in the area and called on the Ulster Defence Association/ Ulster Freedom Fighters and Ulster Volunteer Force to "draw back" from the feud.

The UDP's John White:
The UDP's John White: "Arbitration needed before lives lost"
Seven people were slightly injured in two shootings on Saturday at a Shankill Road bar.

A number of houses, including the home of former Maze prison UVF commander Gusty Spence, were also attacked.

Mr White, whose party is linked to the UDA/UFF, blamed the UVF for the violence at a Shankill Road festival at which UDA murals were unveiled.

But Progressive Unionist Party assemblyman Billy Hutchinson, whose party is linked to the UVF, denied that the attack was part of a loyalist feud. He said it was an attack on ordinary people.

'Our enemies will benefit'

Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster on Monday, John White said: "I think this was devastating for loyalism, unionism and Protestantism - loyalist fighting loyalists.

"I think that both paramilitary organisations should look at the damage they are doing.

"The winners in this are our enemies - Sinn Fein IRA - and I am appealing now for both sides to draw back.

"I think it is impossible for both sides to get together at this time, but I would appeal for some mutual arbitrator to enter into this before lives are lost, because that is where it is heading to and it is the Ulster Protestant people who are going to suffer."

But Billy Hutchinson denied that the shootings were related to an escalating feud.

The PUP's Billy Hutchinson
Billy Hutchinson: "Ordinary people were shot at in the bar"
He said: "The UVF weren't in that bar. These people didn't do anything. They were totally innocent people out on a Saturday afternoon for a drink."

Reacting to Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson's request for a full report on the violence from the Royal Ulster Constabulary after the weekend incidents, he said the British Government was crying "crocodile tears".

Meanwhile, Ulster Unionist security spokesman Ken Maginnis said the government should have moved sooner to end to the dispute within loyalism.

He said he wrote to Prime Minister Tony Blair a week ago, raising concerns about the worsening situation, which he said was rooted in an internecine loyalist war over "turf and drugs".

Gusty Spence: Appeal for calm
Gusty Spence appealed for an immediate end to the violence after his house was attacked.

He said: "I don't want to exacerbate an already volatile situation.

"I would appeal to those cool heads, honest people, decent people within whatever organisations, especially the UDA, that exist to knock this on the head, stop it."

The attack on his home came after loyalist gunmen opened fire at the Rex bar on the Shankill Road during the loyalist parade on Saturday afternoon.

The bar was attacked again on Saturday night, leaving a total of seven people in hospital recovering from minor gunshot wounds and other injuries.

'Put prisoners back'

Meanwhile, Conservative Northern Ireland spokesman Andrew Mackay called for the prison licences on which loyalists Johnny Adair and Michael Stone were released early from the Maze under the Good Friday Agreement to be revoked.

Masked loyalist gunmen and women let off a volley of shots after convicted UFF commander Johnny Adair and Michael Stone, who carried out the Milltown cemetery murders, led a group of men who were carrying UFF and UDA flags onto the Shankill festival stage.

Mr Mackay said: "There can be no doubt that the disgraceful scenes of violence carried out by the UVF and UFF on the Shankill Road at the weekend represent a clear breach of the ceasefires and of the agreement.

"It was totally at odds with the commitment to "exclusively democratic and peaceful means" required by the agreement.

A UDA colour party in paramilitary dress carrying UDA and banners of the Loyalist Volunteer Force also paraded at the festival.

John White and the UDP deputy lord of Belfast, Frank McCoubrey, were on the stage when the shots were being fired.

John White sitting behind loyalist firing shots
John White sitting behind loyalist firing shots
Hundreds of loyalists had travelled from Scotland to take part in what was described as a community event to mark the completion of new murals depicting Protestant culture.

Onlookers described it as the largest show of strength by Northern Ireland's largest loyalist paramilitary grouping (the UDA and UFF) for several years.

On Saturday night at least 16 shots were fired into a house on Ambleside Street which is next door to the family home of Billy Hutchinson.

More than a dozen houses were damaged during disturbances in the north and west of the city.

BBC NI's Julian O'Neill reports
The escalating violence has prompted appeals for calm
See also:

20 Aug 00 | Northern Ireland
Warning over mounting violence
20 Aug 00 | Northern Ireland
Government condemns Belfast violence
19 Aug 00 | Northern Ireland
UDP's electoral future threatened - White
20 Aug 00 | Northern Ireland
Man shot dead in street
31 May 00 | Northern Ireland
Funeral of 'feud victim'
30 May 00 | Northern Ireland
LVF denies murdering man
28 Feb 00 | Northern Ireland
'End feud' loyalist politician appeals
17 Aug 00 | Northern Ireland
'Loyalists must stop attacks'
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