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UVF warning ‘winter of discontent’ if UK PM liz Truss fails to deliver on NI protocol

The paramilitary group has adopted a wait and see strategy as Truss takes up the reins at Number 10

UVF mural (stock image)

Richard SullivanSunday World

The UVF is warning of a winter of discontent if Liz Truss fails to deliver on her Protocol promise.

Terror chiefs have made it clear the removal of the controversial Irish Sea border is a minimal requirement – and if not met they will take to the streets.

The paramilitary group has adopted a wait and see strategy as Truss takes up the reins at Number 10, but alarm bells have sounded in the days after her arrival in Downing Street.

EU negotiators have offered fresh talks but insist there is little prospect of the Protocol being removed, similarly Joe Biden’s White House administration has warned prospects of a US/UK trade deal would be damaged should Truss move unilaterally on the Protocol.

The Sunday World understands there has been a series of meetings in recent weeks which have addressed a number of concerns including the Protocol but also the UVF’s continued involvement in drugs.

The terror group orchestrated civic unrest last year which saw vehicles hijacked and the appearance of armed men on the streets of Belfast.

It is now understood they are losing faith in Truss’s repeated promises and are prepared respond with fresh disturbances.

DUP chief Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has made it clear his party will not return to the power sharing Executive until the Protocol is gone.

The UVF has made it clear they will not tolerate any compromise. Any indication of a weakening of the DUP position will set in motion a planned campaign of disruption.

Sources have told us action will involve disruption to public services and possibly, as previously threatened, targeting Irish companies operating in the North.

The Sunday World understands Commander in Chief John `Bunter’ Graham was left in no doubt as to the mood among his Brigade staff.

There are risks too for Donaldson. Well placed UVF sources have told the Sunday world the organisation will ``turn on him’’ should the DUP leader return to Stormont with Protocol, in any form, still in place.

Graham has come under increased pressure from British security services over the last few years but is being increasingly seen as a leader in name only.

He is understood to be desperate to avoid street violence but has been constantly overruled by this Brigade staff.

His failure to deliver on repeated promises to wean the UVF away from crime has landed him in hot water with the British while unsuccessful attempts to bring the breakaway East Belfast into line has brought him into conflict with his membership.

East Belfast continues to be one of the foremost organised crime gangs in the North.

Their refusal to toe the line from the Shankill and their connections with the Kinahan cartel has left many veteran members uncomfortable.

“We’re coming up to another Remembrance Sunday where we’ll be on parade carrying poppy wreaths, “ a UVF veteran told us.

“The only poppies we’re associated these days are the ones grown in Pakistan, the UVF has become a byword for drugs.

There are no suspicions that a long standing UVF member may have provided information that resulted in a £30,000 cannabis seizure this week.

A 43-year-old man was arrested after cannabis with a street value of an estimated £30,000 was seized as part of an investigation into the east Belfast UVF.

The PSNI have said the arrest was made by Northern Ireland's Paramilitary Crime Task Force on Thursday after the drugs and a sum of cash were seized.

The 43-year-old was arrested on suspicion of possession of a Class B controlled drug, possession of a Class B controlled drug with intent to supply and possessing criminal property.

A police spokesperson said “This is a significant seizure of Class B drugs which have now been safely removed from our streets and community.”

“It demonstrates the PCTF’s ongoing commitment to safeguard local people, and to tackle the supply, use and harrowing consequences of illegal drugs.

The PSNI also said that those involved with illicit drugs “are putting money straight into the hands of paramilitaries, whose only concern is financial gain and control.”

“They care nothing about those lives and relationships that get ruined along the way.”

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“I’m keen to thank local people for their continued support, and would encourage anyone with information, or concerns, to contact us on 101. Information can also be provided, anonymously, to the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.”

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