A senior unionist has raised fears loyalists could be planning to target dissident republicans.
The politician, speaking on condition of anonymity, said “an informed security source” had revealed that “elements of the UDA and UVF were looking at the dissident threat”.
The politician was not suggesting an imminent threat to the loyalist ceasefires, but expressing fears about what could happen.
“Would it result in them doing something stupid? I’m not sure,” the politician said.
He said the assessment was that the UDA was stable but the UVF was “under pressure” to launch an attack.
He pointed to a combination of factors — dissident activity, HET investigations and speculation about a “supergrass” trial involving a one-time senior UVF figure close to the decision-making centre of the organisation.
He warned: “If you pick that scab you infect it.”
He said the UVF could be thinking: “If you strike, do you get more Government sympathy?”
A paramilitary leadership figure told this newspaper the Combined Loyalist Military Command (CLMC) has not met.
“It’s being talked about,” he continued. “But it hasn’t happened yet.”
Asked about the purpose of any such meeting, he replied: “All of those things mentioned could be on the agenda.”
The CLMC is an umbrella loyalist leadership that pulls together the UDA, UVF and associated Red Hand Commando.
It was the title under which the loyalist ceasefire was announced in October 1994, and the paramilitary structure was used to plan moves towards decommissioning.
On the question of continuing investigations into pre-ceasefire and pre-Good Friday Agreement violence, a paramilitary leadership figure said: “Everybody is worried about the HET.
“It needs to be looked at.”
Asked was there a specific nervousness within the UVF about these investigations, he replied: “There definitely is.”
The paramilitary source said the organisation also had internal problems at leadership level, particularly in east Belfast.
“He’s just doing his own thing,” the source said, in a reference to the UVF leader in that part of the city.
There was an example of this in the period leading up to the recent Stormont and local government elections when two UVF murals were painted on the Newtownards Road in east Belfast.
They showed men in balaclavas carrying guns — paintings designed to deliver a war message.