Suspected UVF boss Matthews boots out 10 for drug dealing as he fights to Shore (Road) up in his East Belfast power base
ALLEGED UVF chief Stephen ‘Mackers’ Matthews has issued a rallying war cry “I’m not going anywhere”, a source has claimed.
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The suspected crime boss has moved to reassert his control of the UVF East Belfast UVF amid increasing speculation of him being ousted and rumours that he was considering standing down, according to sources. The Sunday World can reveal he has moved to dispel any doubts about his intentions. Matthews’ grip on his organised crime empire is said to have been shipping, where once he controlled things with an iron grip and sometimes employing ruthless methods. A number of factions had been plotting a takeover and it was thought Matthews, who denies involvement in crime, was losing appetite for the fight. A source has claimed his position was further weakened when he moved out of the UVF heartland of the lower Newtownards Road and set up home in an estate on the outskirts of the city.
It is claimed that following an internal investigation he ordered a purge of drug dealers. It had been believed he sanctioned the dismissal of three dealers but the Sunday World now understands up to 10 people were expelled from the organisation for dealing behind his back. Casualties include his close pal and very good friend of Jamie Bryson and second in command of the East Belfast UVF David ‘Dee’ McConnell, who was accused of putting his hands in the till. According to sources in the east of the city, Matthews had taken his eye off the ball and was losing control of the organisation. We can reveal that he called a batallion meeting and demanded complete loyalty. He warned company commanders he was intent on ‘cleaning up’ the organisation and that everyone would be accountable to him.
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“He asked his commanders for their support, and he got It,” a well informed source told us. “He said if there was anyone who could not back him for whatever reason they were free to leave – no one did.” McConnell (Jamie Bryson’s UVF sidekick) was immediately stood down and despite speculation he was ordered out of the country, he has been allowed to remain in East Belfast – but no longer has the protection of the UVF. In the weeks since his expulsion he has been spending time in Scotland, having been spotted in Ayr where his partner now lives having just had a baby. McConnell (pictured below), for years a constant and loyal sidekick to Matthews, has been forced out after he was accused of dipping his hands in the till at his beloved loyalist football club East Belfast FC.
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The Sunday World understands there’s a hole in the finances at the club and is believed to involve the club’s share of the gate from a money-spinning County Antrim Shield clash with Irish League Champions Linfield. It was a dream draw for the amateur league club, as the teams split the revenue, which would be pennies from heaven for a club outside the top two leagues and who are more used to playing in front of a handful of spectators. Staged at the National Stadium Windsor Park last November the match put East Belfast in the media spotlight with team manager Matthews prowling the touchline with the Blues running out 5-1 winners. Football mad McConnell was also in the dugout. The pair have been at the head of the club for a number of years, overseeing it’s transformation from also-rans into a highly successful amateur league outfit. There are numerous social media pictures of a beaming McConnell beside his mentor in East Belfast FC tracksuits. But convicted druggie McConnell, who once spent £10,000 on a set of veneers for his teeth, couldn’t resist pilfering the gate money. He and another man, also close to Matthews, have been accused and ‘convicted’ of nicking the money.
It is unclear as to the amount of cash involved but is thought to run into thousands. His co-accused has been allowed to remain in Belfast because of his closeness to the Matthews family. Mackers is said to be furious and ‘let down’ by the turn of events, especially from sidekick McConnell. Dee’s position had been seen as unassailable. Towards the end of last year and the beginning of 2020 the pair seemed as tight as ever. They both attended a high profile public meeting at the Con Club in East Belfast in protest at the ‘betrayal deal’ which sees the North of Ireland retaining EU trading rules in the wake of Brexit.
He also reacted angrily to a series of Paramilitary Crime Task Force raids on a number of homes, including his own, accusing the authorities of targeting and demonizing the loyalist community. In recent months cracks have appeared in the leadership structure with increased speculation about Matthews’ intentions. There was some speculation the recently married crime boss was considering stepping back and considering leaving the country. All of which has been put to bed.
The Sunday World understands there were at least two factions vying for control in the east of the city. According to sources, Matthews is hopeful that by reasserting his control he will see off any threat to his leadership. McConnell was botted out in May following an internal investigation which resulted in him being accused of pocketing cash from the organisation’s lucrative drug rackets. Three UVF drug dealers were expelled for not paying their dues and when it emerged McConnell had been pocketing the cash it sparked a further investigation into the missing football money.
McConnell oversaw the drug operation when it emerged his foot soldiers were dealing on the side the writing was on the wall. “This is huge move that has not gone down very well at All,” one loyalist source said in May. “Dee considered himself untouchable, so much so that a few of his former comrades claim he was doing business behind his best pal’s back. “A lot of things can be forgiven in the paramilitary world, but when someone is thought to be sneakily challenging the leadership and making their own moves to make cash, it is simply not tolerated. And he warned it would result in splits in the organisation. On top of inside pressure, the gang lost a six figure sum of cash and drugs in a series of police raids which brought the missing football cash into sharper focus.
“Mackers is now convinced Dee has been stitching him up for years, the only way back for Dee is if Mackers either stands down or leaves,” said our source. On Saturday night August 8th a spokesman for Matthews said: “Mr Matthews denies any allegations of criminality and membership of the UVF. “He has no knowledge of the incident as described”
With many thanks to the: Sunday World and Richard Sullivan for the EXCLUSIVE original story