Tuesday, July 31, 2007

UDA’s Belfast brick scam

Alana Fearon:

Despite a generous government grant of £1.2 million as an incentive to turn its back on extortion and criminality, the North Belfast News has learned that the UDA is cashing in on yet another scam – this time in the Tiger’s Bay area.

In March of this year it was announced that the government would provide £400,000 a year as part of a conflict transformation initiative to the UDA-linked Ulster Political Research Group (UPRG).

The project, which will run for a period of three years in six loyalist communities, is providing funding in a bid to move the UDA away from violence and crime.

But violence last weekend in Carrickfergus between feuding factions of the UDA, during which a policeman was shot in the back, coupled with the alleged extortion in Tiger’s Bay, could mean funding will be withdrawn.

We can reveal that the UDA is taxing budding entrepreneurs who have been cashing in on a Housing Executive (HE) regeneration scheme in the Mountcollyer area.

The latest UDA scam, which has been ongoing since the demolition of derelict houses began almost four years ago, involves extorting money from small businessmen who have beencollecting Belfast’s famous red bricks and selling them on to builders.

The Housing Executive has already cleared a significant number of houses in the area to make way for 35 new social houses provided by Clanmil Housing Association.

The remaining houses are due to be demolished as quickly as possible but the HE says ‘brick bandits’ are delaying the process and say they want the PSNI to take action.

Brick bandits have operated in other areas such as the Shore Road, Glenbryn and the Shankill.

A pallet of 500 bricks in the Mountcollyer area can fetch up to £110, but it is believed the UDA are cashing in on the scam by taxing the brick gatherers as much as £20 a pallet – and residents in the area have had enough.

A local source said: “This is just another UDA racket and residents down here aren’t happy about it.

“We are talking about young lads of 17 out trying to make a few pounds and they are being charged for their hard work. Imagine men coming round to your house after a hard working week and demanding some of your earnings.

“It wouldn’t be tolerated anywhere else and it shouldn’t be tolerated here.

“Residents around here can’t say anything because they’d get their windows put in so everyone is keeping quiet.”

Funding for the conflict transformation initiative is being administered by Farset Community Enterprises and is being closely monitored by the Department for Social Development (DSD).

A spokesman for the DSD said: “The objective of the funding is to help reduce criminality and violence and free loyalist communities from the influence of paramilitaries.

“The department has made it clear that continued funding is dependent on a demonstrable reduction in crime and paramilitary activity and is working closely with the PSNI and the IMC on monitoring UDA activity.”

A brutal truth

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UDA feud proves loyalism has a long way to go

Funding linked to UDA 'must stop'


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