Loyalist funeral unites factions

AN impressive, if temporary, display of loyalist unity was on parade yesterday at the Rathcoole funeral of UDA kingpin John Gregg.

For the past two years ago, loyalist factions have been feuding. Yesterday it was a different story.

The purple and orange wreaths of the UVF sat next to the UDA’s red-white-and-blue with the LVF’s black-white-and-orange thrown onto the back of the lorry for good measure.

The ties worn by the thousands of dark-suited men as the cortége snaked through Rathcoole spoke the same language of unity. The blue and red of the Red Hand Commando group joined the contrasting colours of the UVF, UDA and LVF.

It was impressive, with loyalist councillors and assemblymen, such as the PUP’s Billy Hutchinson and the Ulster Political Research Group’s Frank McCoubrey, rubbing shoulders.

Doubly so, as Gregg was reputedly behind the murder of UVF man, Mark Quaid, during the UDA/UVF feud of the summer of 2000. Gregg was gunned down last week at the height of a feud between the UDA and the faction controlled by Johnny ‘Mad Dog’ Adair.

“Today you are seeing the united face of loyalism in Ulster,” one leading loyalist said as a volley of shots was fired over Gregg’s coffin.

The gesture was symbolic and showed a watching public Adair was no longer a leading figure. It also signalled a temporary lull in hostilities for the long-suffering working-class loyalist people of the Shankill, Carrickfergus, Ballysillan and Larne.

It spelt something else entirely for Catholics throughout the North who will be concerned now loyalists will revert to attacking nationalists. Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy last night told the people of Belfast’s loyalist communities they faced a choice between gangsterism and politics.

Speaking in Dublin at the start of a two-day visit, he said he had been horrified at recent events involving rival loyalist factions in Belfast.

“Obviously I condemn the killers of people in the UDA. However, it is important to say loyalist communities can either chose gangsterism or they can choose political loyalism,” he said.

Adair, who is in jail, was told yesterday his wife Gina and close associate John White were among a group who fled to Scotland after homes were attacked at his former powerbase in the city’s Lower Shankill area.

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