'Life could be lost' in Co Down UDA feud as police struggle to cope

A security correspondent has said stretched police resources may be unable to cope with handling a violent feud between rival factions of the UDA in North Down.

The Belfast Telegraph's Allison Morris warned innocent people were being caught in the middle of the dispute and "lives could be lost" after attacks in Newtownards and Bangor

Attacks have intensified in recent days.

Speaking to UTV, Ms Morris provided a background to the feud.

"What we have been seeing has been building for a number of months. There have been tensions within a faction of the UDA," she said.

"Part of that is linked to the breakaway South East Antrim UDA and other parts linked to a faction of the UDA based in Newtownards and North Down.

"What happened just over a week ago was a number of members of the South East Antrim UDA were expelled and therefore the tensions that existed between these two groups had managed to keep a lid on it because I suppose those people were under the protection of a paramilitary leadership.

"Once those people were no longer under that protection there was a move to try and remove them from the area.

"Homes were attacked. The home of a very senior loyalist was attacked. The thing is they're refusing to leave."

Ms Morris said there was a risk to members of the public getting caught up in the violence.

She said: "Rather than this phasing out, it's actually escalating and the violence is getting worse. An awful lot of people including the family members of paramilitaries are being drawn into it and homes of innocent people are being attacked.

"This is a fight over drug territory and there's no point in trying to dress it up as anything else.

"The issue is until now the attacks have been on property but that could easily cross over into attacks on people."

"I know that the PSNI are trying to negotiate to see if they can bring an end to this, but the problem that exists is that for these to two groups there's too much at stake.

"Unfortunately there's a very real possibility that life could be lost."

Referencing the stresses this poses to PSNI, Ms Morris added: "We have seen arrests of quite senior figures connected to it. We have had people appear in court in connection with this, but it comes against a backdrop of falling police numbers, a lack of resources and cuts to the budget.

"We're talking about huge numbers of people taking to the streets at night and the PSNI are struggling to resource the sheer numbers of police required.

When asked about the response of local politicians she called for representatives to speak out publicly on the issue.

"There has been some unionist politicians calling for it to stop, people like Jim Shannon, but I do think for public confidence people want to hear more politicians coming out and speaking more strongly about this

"The communities that are suffering are the people who live in those areas who are now being nightly subject to harassment.

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