Picturesque seaside village caught up in bizarre 'flag war' between rival loyalist gangs

The warring factions are competing over lamp post space for Loyalist flags as the village is bedecked with more flags than the united nations
Some of the loyalist flags in Ballyhalbert

Some of the loyalist flags in Ballyhalbert

Patricia Devlin

A picturesque seaside village has been caught up in a bizarre 'flag war' between rival loyalist terror gangs.

Over the last month, UDA and UVF flags have been appearing on lampposts in Ballyhalbert, Co Down, to the disgust of locals who say the terror displays have turned the leafy streets into eyesores.

On some lampposts, five flags fly including one with images of two armed and masked men with the words: 'When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty'.

Sources say they starting appearing a number of weeks ago and with the UDA's breakaway 'D' Company brigade first to erect their newly styled banner.

The warring factions are competing over lamp post space for Loyalist flags as the village is bedecked with more flags than the united nations

The warring factions are competing over lamp post space for Loyalist flags as the village is bedecked with more flags than the united nations

The Sunday World understands the man reported to be the unit's north Down boss Dickie Barry ordered his men to put up as many as the new terror flags as possible.

The move not only angered his former Shankill road bosses - whose West Belfast logo has been wiped from the new flags - but also the UVF.

One local told how within a week of the UDA displays going up, dozens of UVF men descended on the quiet village and decked out each UDA flag-flying lampposts with their own

"About 40 of them appeared on a Tuesday night and just flooded the area with flags," one local told the Sunday World last week.

"These people were clearly not from the area and it was quite terrifying to see, especially for the older residents who are just not used to that sort of thing.

"We get a lot of tourists up here and it just makes the area look so, so bad. We're worried that it would put people off from visiting."

The new UDA flag is Barry's latest two-finger salute to his former west Belfast loyalist chiefs who he fell out with last year.

In December, the Sunday World revealed how the alleged north Down boss signalled that his 200-strong unit was breaking away from the leadership.

Barry, who is in his late forties, is said to have told his loyalist chiefs that his 'D' Company faction would no longer be ruled by west Belfast for the first time in 20 years.

The brazen move - which sparked fears of violence - was made at a crisis meeting between Barry and a senior loyalist chief who had ordered the Ards-based crime kingpin to "clean up" his gang.

According to well-placed sources, the convicted extortionist - who has been a key target for the PSNI for many years - was summoned to a UDA meeting told that his paramilitary gang must step away from criminality.

But in two fingers to the Shankill, Barry said his north Down unit - which stretches from Ards to Bangor - would no longer be operating under the orders of its HQ - and going solo.

"Twenty years ago, Dickie wouldn't have walked out of a meeting like that with his teeth intact," a source told the Sunday World at the time. "He basically told the leadership to go f*** themselves.

"He was told that the unit needed to move away from criminality, it was happening across the board and north Down needed to conform.

"His cocky response was, 'sure we aren't involved in criminality... there's nothing that needs to change'.

"He then said that north Down didn't need the Shankill, and they haven't needed them for quite some time.

"He said the unit was going solo and would not be taking any more orders from west Belfast.

"He was backed up by his second in command at the meeting and they were both told that if that was the case, it would be made known that north Down was now operating as a criminal gang.

"Barry's response was that no, they were the UDA and would be continuing to act as such - and there was nothing they could do about it.

"The question now is, will west Belfast allow Barry and such a big unit to walk away like that? Will it result in armed conflict?"

The source added: "The UDA is now stuck between a rock and a hard place.

"They are trying to appear like they are mirroring the UVF's transition from criminality, and say, look we are trying to clean up... orders have been given.

"It's happening right across the board in west Belfast with both the UDA and UVF, they are applying pressure all around.

"In reality it's a smokescreen, there's always going to criminality, but it's about hiding it better and getting rid of any loose cannons."

Barry's refusal to abide by the paramilitary gang's top dog orders has raised tensions within high-ranking UDA chiefs as they attempt to mirror the UVF's transition from criminality.

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