PARAMILITARY thugs are being blamed for an upsurge in anti-social behaviour in north Antrim, which spilled over into a violent street brawl at the weekend.
Unionist politicians have reacted with outrage after more than 20 people were involved in the fight outside a bar in Cullybackey, near Ballymena, in the early hours of Sunday morning.
It is believed that a number of loyalist paramilitaries were targeted
in the brawl, which is the latest in a series of violent attacks in the
In July a number of people were seriously injured after trouble fared
at an Eleventh night bonfre in Tobar Park in Cullybackey.
TUV councillor Sam Gaston said he had "no doubts" that "paramilitary
elements" were involved in the recent cycle of violence.
"People may not thank me for saying it, but there are individuals linked to paramilitary groups who are fexing their muscles around the
village," he said.
"This situation has been simmering for a while, and there is a real fear in Cullybackey now that there will be more fighting and attacks.
"There is a policing partnership meeting this week and I will be
making sure that this situation is at the top of the agenda before this
village is dragged down by these people. I have been contacted by
ordinary people from Cullybackey, they are frightened, especially the
elderly coming into these darker nights. We need to have some
reassurances from the police that they are in control of this problem."
North Antrim MLA Mervyn Storey said he was "shocked and saddened" by the weekend violence.
"Whoever is behind this fight, whether it was organised or not, it cannot be tolerated in a village like Cullybackey," said the DUP assembly member.
"I am quite sure that this violence just didn't start from nowhere, unfortunately we have seen other incidents of serious crime in the area and we need the community and police to work together to stamp it out.
"I know that the people of Cullybackey are hardworking, decent people, and these thugs must not be allowed to continue to strike fear and division into the local community."
The four people injured were taken to Antrim Area Hospital and treated in the accident and emergency department, before being released.
A spokesperson for Vortex nightclub in Cullybackey, near where the trouble occurred, said: "Vortex nightclub or members of the public who had been enjoying themselves at the nightclub were not responsible for the incident that took place on Saturday November 20. Anything that did
happen, we were not aware of it and it was in no way connected to
the nightclub. We wish to make no further comment."