Loyalist groups warn of backlash

The Irish Times—29 June 1999


By Chris Anderson

Security chiefs in the North are facing a major threat to peace in the run-up to the Drumcree Orange parade following an announcement from two loyalist terror groups, the Orange Volunteers and the Red Hand Defenders, that they have "put all active service units on full alert from midnight tonight".

In a statement accompanied by a recognised codeword, issued yesterday afternoon, a spokesperson for the dissident loyalist groups said that the Orange Volunteers and the Red Hand Defenders would not "stand idly by and watch as our culture, heritage and religion are attacked and destroyed before our eyes".

The statement went on to warn that individuals judged to be involved in the "current sell-out" would be made to suffer the "consequences".

Both groups also threatened to take action against the British government if it attempted to "suppress Protestantism in this land".

Yesterday's statement will be taken seriously by the North's security forces, as both loyalist groups are known to have carried out a series of attacks against Catholic targets in recent weeks. Their main mode of attack has been the pipe-bomb.

Last March, the Red Hand Defenders admitted it planted the bomb which killed Ms Rosemary Nelson, the Lurgan solicitor.

Both groups have also threatened to extend their campaign to targets within the Republic. The Orange Volunteers threatened at the weekend to "pull the teeth of the Celtic Tiger".

It is believed that the Red Hand Defenders and Orange Volunteers have grown in strength in many parts of the North in recent months. A loyalist source said recently: "It would be a serious mistake to underestimate the capabilities of these dissident groups. They have the ability to strike hard when they want to. They will even target Dublin if they feel it is necessary. They are engaged in a holy war, an Orange jihad."

Yesterday's statement comes less than 48 hours after the UVF announced that it had regrouped in Portadown and was launching a major recruiting campaign in the mid-Ulster area.

At the same time, the LVF in Portadown said that, along with other loyalist groups, it was monitoring the Drumcree situation closely. The LVF said that these groups were "fully committed to a military response in defence of the loyalist people, if deemed necessary".

With the Drumcree Orange parade now banned, the North's security forces are facing the threat of military action from loyalists and will have to deal with numerous parades and demonstrations across the North in support of Drumcree.


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