doomsday scenario | 

UVF terror chiefs order arms dumps opened in preparation for Boris Protocol failure

Sources indicated that guns and ammunition have already been removed from dumps and placed with UVF units across Northern Ireland

UVF units have been put on a war footing as terror chiefs await outcome of new Protocol bill

Richard Sullivan

UVF leaders have authorised arms dumps to be broken open as they prepare for a Protocol doomsday.

Units across the country have been placed on standby as they await the verdict on controversial legislation due to go through parliament which, if passed, will effectively rip up parts of the EU Withdrawal Treaty.

The Sunday World understands terror chiefs are prepared to put the organisation on a “war footing”.’

Well-placed sources have indicated that guns and ammunition have already been removed from dumps and placed with UVF units across Northern Ireland.

It had been thought the leadership had rowed back from continuing with a campaign of violence against the Protocol after community groups in loyalist areas were warned state funding would be put at risk.

The Irish government has already initiated a full-scale audit of all grant aid issued by Dublin since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement.

Seized loyalist weapons – but many others got through

The British indicated there are no plans for them to follow a similar path but loyalist leaders have been left in no doubt that civic disruption will have consequences for their community.

And at time when communities are struggling with the cost of living crisis and with many families reliant on foodbanks, they risk alienating their own people.

But the Sunday World understands the leadership feels it has little choice, having taken the position that the Protocol must go.

There is a strong likelihood the controversial legislation put before parliament at the start of the week will not garner enough support to pass into law.

The bill sets out green and red channels for good flowing between the North and GB, with the government stating it also protects the EU open market.

But it has drawn stinging criticism from all but the unionist parties at Stormont as well as the Labour Party in Westminster, all of whom have accused Boris Johnson’s administration of flagrantly breaking international law.

The UK’s international isolation was further underlined with condemnation from the US and with the EU issuing legal action.

It is against this backdrop that the UVF leadership is preparing for armed action.

“They feel they have no choice,” said our source, “and, as we all know, they have access to guns. There might have been decommissioning back in the day but not everything was handed over and they have been re-arming for years.”

There has even been speculation that weaponry from a huge arms consignment smuggled into the country from South Africa in 1988 could be broken out.

The cache, which was split between the UVF, UDA and Ulster Resistance, was partially intercepted but it is estimated a third of the consignment got through and was concealed in sealed dumps.

Largely in the hands of the shadowy Ulster Resistance, the guns and ammunition are being preserved for a “doomsday scenario”.

“That could be closer than we think,” said our source, “if the Irish Sea border is not removed Northern Ireland is effectively cut off from the rest of the UK – if that’s not a doomsday scenario for loyalists, I don’t know what is.”

The DUP has stated there is no prospect of a return to Stormont while the Protocol remains in place, but with the prospect of legal action from the EU and no guarantees of enough support in the House of Commons and even less so in the House of Lords, the best they can hope for is negotiated change.

But the UVF and the loyalist paramilitary umbrella group the Loyalist Communities Council stating that nothing but its abolition will do, observers believe a return to some form of violent campaign is inevitable.

The rise in tensions come at the end of a week in which two prominent loyalists appeared in court on charges relating to the seizure of an arms cache in Belfast earlier this month.

Belfast Magistrates Court heard that police believe a man accused of firearms offences transported a haul of weapons to a meeting with high-profile loyalist Winston Irvine.

Robin Workman (51), from the Shore Road in Larne, was denied bail. Workman, along with Irvine, 46, from Ballysillan Road in Belfast, were arrested the previous week as police were investigating a security alert that led to Irish government minister Simon Coveney being evacuated from a peace event. Irvine appeared in court charged with firearm offences last Saturday.

Workman was charged with possession of a firearm and ammunition in suspicious circumstances, possession of a prohibited firearm, possession of a handgun without a certificate and possession of ammunition without a certificate.

A PSNI detective inspector told the court that he could connect Workman to the charges.

During the hearing, a defence lawyer asked the officer if it was accurate that during Irvine’s weekend court appearance, his counsel had suggested he was acting as “some form of decommissioning interlocutor”.

The officer said that had been implied by Irvine’s lawyer.

Irvine was arrested in Disraeli Street after police officers observed meeting the driver of a red VW van, and officers discovered a number of firearms, magazines and more than 200 rounds of ammunition in a holdall in the boot of hi scar.

Workman was arrested in Ballymena later the same day.

“The police case is this has the hallmarks of a paramilitary operation,” a police officer told the court.

“The quantity of what is found includes a large range of different calibre ammunition.

“Our concern would be that we have recovered a wide range of ammunition with weapons that they are not compatible with so believe there are other weapons available that this ammunition would marry up with.

“Our case is that the applicant transported them to the meeting with his co-accused to be handed over.

“He therefore has knowledge of the storage locations of other weapons where this arms cache was recovered from.”

A defence lawyer said Workman had denied during three days of police interview that he was the individual who’d met Irvine in Belfast.

He added: “This case should be distinguished entirely from his co-accused.

“His co-accused is somewhat of a high-profile individual. He made the case that he will be calling a galaxy of witnesses to attest to his efficacy and his works in the peace process.

“This man is not like that, is a self-employed joiner with no criminal record whatsoever.”

The district judge denied bail.

Both men have been remanded in custody to appear again on July 1.

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