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UDA boss Gary Fisher becomes paranoid recluse as gang comes under unprecedented pressure

‘Fisher has seen his organisation lose control of the lucrative drug trade in the town’

Colin Simms

Clifford Irons

Members of the South East Antrim UDA arrive at a house wearing masks.

Richard SullivanSunday World

Gangland boss Gary Fisher has become a paranoid reclusive as South East Antrim UDA comes under unprecedented pressure, a source has claimed.

The secretive mobster is rarely seen in public and has become increasingly paranoid about his personal security and is obsessive about not being pictured.

And theSunday World understands Fisher is rarely seen on the ground by his supporters anymore.

He used to be a fitness fanatic and keen cyclist who took regular Sunday morning bike rides as far as Ballycastle and the north coast.

His grip on South East Antrim UDA has been weakening over the last couple of years. He is known to want out of the business and is now seen as Brigadier in name only.

He has seen the organisation lose control of the lucrative drug trade in the town and last week’s “show of strength” by the UVF has heaped further pressure on him.

A schoolyard row between two teenage girls was the spark that lit the confrontation with a mob of 20 men – mostly masked and at least one believed to have been armed – gathered outside a house on the Glenfield estate.

In a video posted on social media, a man can be heard remonstrating with the crowd from an upstairs window, accusing them of harbouring an alleged child sex offender. As previously revealed, a one-time senior UVF figure is facing charges over the sending of sexually inappropriate pictures to a 14-year-old girl.

When the allegations first surfaced, UVF chiefs refused to take action against him and have continued to shield him despite the criminal charges.

Fisher is believed to have sent senior loyalist and close associate Clifford Irons to the area to try and smooth the situation.

Irons, once named in court as a UDA commander and who is facing drug charges, is alleged to have been Fisher’s eyes and ears in Carrick, overseeing the drugs operation.

Irons also faced a gun charge after a pistol was found in his car along with a number of other items. The charge appears to have been withdrawn as it is no longer on the court lists.

Sources say Irons’ failure to ease tensions between the rival groups is a signal of a shift in the power base in the town.

Because of a series of criminal charges including mortgage fraud, Irons was forced to leave Carrickfergus, and around the same time Fisher moved away from the SEA power base in the Rathcoole estate.

Since the organisation has become increasingly fractured.

The demise of one-time SEA enforcer Colin Simms further weakened the organisation.

Glenfield was his stomping ground.

But despite his expulsion from the terror group he has maintained a presence in the area and is linked to a criminal group in the estate which has been terrorising neighbourhoods, forcing the UVF to flex their muscles.

The Sunday World understands he is a relative of one of the girls whose row sparked the confrontation.

It is not clear what the spat was about but it has ballooned into a potential feud between the organisations.

The row threatens to leave in tatters an agreement forged between Fisher and his UVF counterpart – known as the Monkstown Agreement – whereby disputes would be settled through negotiation. A number of disagreements have been settled amicably but this latest row threatens to break the peace.

A north Belfast UDA source told us SEA is in decline.

“From what it once was to where it is now is disgrace.”

He said at its height the organisation could command a 3,500-strong membership, now its membership is a “straggle” of splintered drug gangs.

“Don’t get me wrong, they are still capable of extreme violence but they don’t have the balls or the manpower to get involved in a row with the UVF.

“That’s why Fisher is desperate to put a lid on it.

“To bring men onto the street is a serious statement and it is causing ructions,” said our source. “And it doesn’t help that Simms is stoking the fire.”

He added that SEA could longer command control of the town’s drug trade, which in turn makes Fisher’s position even more vulnerable.

His demise has seen a number of independent dealers move in, including outfits with links to dissident gangs, something that would have been tolerated in recent years.

richard.sullivan@sundayworld.com


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