Breaking story from UTV who are tonight reporting that a senior figure in the paramilitary Ulster Volunteer Force is about to turn supergrass against his former comrades. It's believed this is linked to the ongoing Operation Ballast investigation into the activities of the notorious Mount Vernon gang during the 1990s.
A number of men from North Belfast and Newtonabbey, among them the serial assassin and RUC Special Branch agent, Mark Haddock, face trial for serious terrorist offences, including the murder of rival loyalist Tommy English. The case against the accused rests heavily on the testimony of two brothers, Ian and Robert Stewart, who turned supergrass in return for lenient sentences after confessing their parts in the October 2000 murder of UDA man English (the GFA's early-release provisions apply only to offences commited before April 1998).
A new wave of arrests is expected in light of the latest, more serious defection, which comes at a time when the UVF is already under severe pressure due to the continuing fallout from its murder of Shankill Road man Bobby Moffat in June. The Sunday World, which has impeccable loyalist sources, reported at the weekend that the organisation's top brass (sorry that's me seeking a job at the SW!) was in total disarray with senior figures said to be turning on each other.
Can the state really afford to hang the UVF leadership out to dry? And on another note, why is the UTV website publicising police arrest operations in advance?
Adds: the Irish News initially named Gary Haggarty as a prospective 'grass' in August last year.