Appeal to loyalists on ceasefire

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The Government yesterday illustrated how seriously it regards the present threat to the loyalist ceasefire by appealing directly to the extreme Protestant groups not to return to violence.

Sir Patrick Mayhew, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, said the collapse of the ceasefire would have "dangerous consequences", but at the same time commended what he described as the self-discipline of the loyalists over the last two years.

Concern for the ceasefire, which was declared in October 1994, has grown since Monday's announcement by prisoners affiliated to the Ulster Defence Association, one of the two main Protestant paramilitary groups, that they were withdrawing their support from the peace process. David McKittrick