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Saturday, 26 August, 2000, 14:00 GMT 15:00 UK
Funeral of third feud victim
Lorry laiden with floral tributes led cortege
Lorry laiden with floral tributes led cortege
There was a heavy security presence at the funeral of the third victim of the loyalist feud in Belfast's Shankill Road area.

Sam Rocket, 22, who was understood to have had links to the Ulster Volunteer Force, was shot in front of his baby daughter and girlfriend in the loyalist Oldpark area of north Belfast on Wednesday night.

More than 1,000 people gathered outside the funeral service at Mr Rocket's Vistula Street home off the Crumlin Road on Saturday, as police announced that they had made a number of arrests in connection with his murder.

Mr Rocket is believed to have been shot by the Ulster Defence Association/Ulster Freedom Fighters in a reprisal attack, following the double murder of two men on Monday, which that group blamed on the UVF.

The feud between the UDA/UFF and rival UVF has raised tension on the Shankill area of west Belfast, which has already seen two funerals linked to the dispute this week.

Armed police line route

A major security operation was mounted for Mr Rocket's funeral with armed police lining route of the cortege through the Shankill area.

A lone piper led the procession from Mr Rocket's home and men in white shirts, black trousers, ties and armbands flanked the coffin.

The media was asked to stay away from the funeral by marshals as many leading loyalists paid their last respects.

On the Shankill Road shops and businesses were shuttered and the road was lined with onlookers as the funeral cortege passed, before Mr Rocket's burial at Roselawn cemetery.

One of his brothers, Arthur, was granted compassionate bail to attend the funeral. He is facing charges of possessing a loaded revolver.

Raised tensions

The police and army have been maintaining a strong security presence in north and west Belfast following the funerals of feud victims Jackie Coulter, a senior UDA member, on Friday and Bobby Mahood on Thursday.

Paramilitary wreaths accompanied Jackie Coulter's cortege
Mr Coulter and Mr Mahood were shot dead while sitting a jeep outside a bookmakers on the Crumlin Road in north Belfast on Monday.

On Friday, for another night, soldiers deployed onto the streets of Belfast to prevent bloodshed for the first time in two years, patrolled the Shankill area and army helicopters kept close surveillance.

A number of imitation firearms were found in a search operation at a house on the lower Shankill Road on Friday night.

The police also carried out a number of searches in loyalist areas of north Belfast on Saturday morning.

Tension raised by the feud has forced 40 families to leave their homes on the Shankill Road. They started applying to be rehoused after the feud flared up at a UDA-linked festival on the road at the weekend.

UDA and UFF wreaths, UFF flags and a wreath from the loyalist splinter group the Loyalist Volunteer Force accompanied Jackie Coulter's coffin from his St Mary's Court in the Shankill Road on Friday.

Jackie Coulter
Murder victim: UDA man Jackie Coulter
Senior members of the Ulster Democratic Party, which is linked to the UDA/UFF, including UDP chairman John White and Belfast deputy mayor Frank McCoubrey, were among more than 1,000 mourners.

UDP politicians also attended the funeral of Bobby Mahood on Thursday.

Mr Coulter was a close associate of convicted UFF leader Johnny Adair.

'Adair re-arrest vindicated'

Free since September last year under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, Adair's licence was revoked by Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson who said he had evidence of the leading loyalist's involvement in commissioning acts of terrorism.

Convicted UFF leader Johnny Adair
Adair: Returned to prison on police information
On Saturday Mr Mandelson said his decision to put Adair back in prison had been vindicated.

He said the peace process could have been derailed if the loyalist violence had spread to Catholic areas and that although the situation was still tense it could have been much worse.

But David Ervine of the Progressive Unionist Party, which is linked to the UVF, said there was still an urgent need for talks between the rival organisations to end the feud.

David Ervine: Violence must be stopped
David Ervine: Violence must be stopped
Speaking on the BBC's Inside Politics programme he said he believed the roots of the feud were based both in local conflicts between "cardboard cut-out characters" and in a political power-struggle between the loyalist organisations.

The PUP assemblymember also said he believed the UDA and LVF were uniting against the UVF, despite the fact that the UDA/UFF has said it supports the Good Friday Agreement, while the LVF is opposed to it.

Speaking on the same programme Ulster Unionist trade minister Sir Reg Empey, said people were faced with two choices.

"We either go forward and try to get work into difficult areas like north Belfast. Or we go back into the trenches and follow the funeral corteges for another 30 years," he said.

BBC NI's Tracey Tittierington reports:
"There was a heavy security presence at Sam Rocket's funeral"
The BBC's Lisa Holland
"A place dominated by fear and intimidation"
The BBC's David Eades
"This week began with murders and it has ended with funerals"
See also:

26 Aug 00 | Northern Ireland
Politicians appeal for end to feud
26 Aug 00 | Northern Ireland
Feud exposes 'loyalist gameplan'
25 Aug 00 | Northern Ireland
Tight security as feud tensions high
25 Aug 00 | Northern Ireland
Funeral of murdered loyalist
25 Aug 00 | Northern Ireland
Loyalist 'still committed' to agreement
24 Aug 00 | Northern Ireland
Loyalist feud victim buried
22 Aug 00 | Northern Ireland
Security review after loyalist deaths
22 Aug 00 | Northern Ireland
Shots fired at houses
24 Aug 00 | Northern Ireland
Funeral for murdered loyalist
23 Aug 00 | Northern Ireland
History of the loyalist feud
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