Fears of a return to paramilitary terror

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Nearly half the people of Northern Ireland fear the IRA will return to violence, according to a survey published yesterday.

With the first anniversary of the ceasefire just days away, an opinion poll revealed that 46 per cent of the population believe the IRA guns will not stay silent.

A study carried out on behalf of the nationalist Irish News newspaper in Belfast said the number of Catholics expecting a return to IRA violence has increased from 15 per cent six months ago to 26 per cent.

There are also fears that loyalist paramilitaries will restart their campaign as well, according to the poll. Nearly 60 per cent of Protestants and 30 per cent of Catholics believe there will be a resumption. One in three backs the early release of paramilitary prisoners as part of the peace process, and the poll also confirmed Catholic dissatisfaction with the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

A majority (58 per cent) of those polled by Ulster Marketing Surveys - who interviewed 1,116 people last weekend - said the police did a poor job handling controversial loyalist parades through nationalist areas of Belfast, Londonderry and Portadown, Co Armagh.