A former Lord Mayor of Belfast says the attempted murder of a young woman in east Belfast is being viewed by the community as the UVF attempting to scapegoat her for deaths caused by their own deadly drugs.
Police are appealing for information following the shooting in the Lord Street Mews area of east Belfast on Wednesday night in which a 24-year-old woman suffered gunshot wounds to her stomach, both legs and left arm.
Asked if police are naming any group they may suspect of the shooting, a PSNI spokeswoman said yesterday that investigations are still at an early stage and several lines of inquiry are being investigated.
DUP councillor Gavin Robinson, a former Lord Mayor of Belfast, said locals are blaming the UVF.
“The views I am getting from people on the ground is that this was the UVF,” he told the News Letter. “It has been described to me as a scapegoating for the drugs that the UVF have flooded the area with.”
Describing the UVF as “merchants of death” he said they did “exactly the same thing in Strandburn Drive recently where they shot a man in the legs”.
“They are making the drugs available but when things go wrong, the bad PR requires that they take action and take the opportunity to scapegoat others.”
Police said on Friday that their drug-related arrests and charges in east Belfast have risen this year by 13.5 per cent and 28.6 per cent respectively.
Billy Hutchinson, leader of the UVF-linked political party, the PUP, hit out at those blaming the UVF.
“The difficulty is that it is great pointing the finger at people, but then people never come back to admit when they are proven wrong,” he said.
“Anybody I have been talking to says the people behind this are involved in drugs – one or two groups that may be working together.
“When the police say who they think is involved I will name them and say they have no role in society.”
Mr Hutchinson added: “I am on record from the 1990s as saying you cannot be a loyalist and a drug dealer.
“Nor can you be involved in criminality and be a loyalist at the same time.”
Full story in Saturday’s News Letter