October 5, 2005

Former paramilitary leader killed in Belfast

By Paul Hoskins

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Gunmen killed a former leader in
Northern Ireland's largest Protestant paramilitary group on
Tuesday, the most high-profile victim of a spate of violence
among armed Protestant factions in the province.

Jim Gray, who survived an assassination attempt in 2002 and
was ousted from the Ulster Defense Association in March, was
killed outside his home in Belfast, said sources among the
armed factions. Police declined to give any details.

Tensions are high among the province's Protestant majority
despite an official report last month that the IRA, who draw
support from the Roman Catholic community, had abandoned
weapons used in three decades of fighting against British rule.

Violence and distrust has exacerbated difficulties facing
the British and Irish governments in trying to persuade
Protestant and Catholic politicians to restore a power-sharing,
home-rule deal that collapsed in 2002.

Many Protestants, who want to maintain links with Britain,
accuse the government of having made too many concessions to
the IRA. Their resentment resulted last month in some of the
worst rioting in Northern Ireland in years.

Television pictures showed Gray's body lying on the ground,
his boots sticking out from under a blood-stained white sheet.
Police cordoned off the area.


A senior source among the Protestant armed factions said he
was "99 percent sure" the killing of Gray, a former UDA head in
east Belfast, was unrelated to a feud between Protestant

"He was either shot as an internal issue by the UDA who
have tried him for treason in the past or else it was somebody
who had a grudge against him," said the source, speaking on
condition of anonymity.

Gray, nicknamed "Doris Day" for his striking bleached blond
hair and year-round suntan, had been on bail facing charges of
money laundering.

At least four other people have been killed in the past few
months as a result of rivalry between armed Protestant

The Independent Monitoring Commission, set up by Britain
and Ireland to rule whether groups are sticking to ceasefire
pledges, said last month the feud between Protestant groups had
"erupted in bloodthirsty thuggery."

It pointed the finger at the Ulster Volunteer Force and the
Loyalist Volunteer Force.

Peter Robinson, deputy leader of Northern Ireland's main
Protestant political party, condemned the shooting.

"Those who take the law into their own hands have nothing
to contribute to society," said Robinson, whose Democratic
Unionist Party has taken a tough line over negotiating with
Catholic politicians until it is satisfied the IRA has given up

The UDA was formed in 1971 and during the three decades of
conflict in Northern Ireland it mounted attacks on Catholics.
It is widely estimated to have killed more than 400 people.

Ceasefires in the 1990s ended the worst of the violence in
the province, but lasting peace remains elusive despite the
so-called Good Friday peace agreement between Protestants and
Catholics in 1998.