Loyalists nervous over IRA attacks

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TWO LEADING Loyalists warned that the Ulster peace agreement was in real danger of collapsing, putting pressure on Gerry Adams to declare the republican war over

The leader of one of Northern Ireland's main loyalist parties said a clear statement was needed from the Sinn Fein president if the deal was to survive.

In a strongly-worded warning, David Ervine, of the Progressive Unionist Party, which has links with the Ulster Volunteer Force, said: "It is my opinion that if the IRA do not say the war is over then the agreement is over, it's as simple as that.

"Adams does not say the war is over and the unionist population do not believe that the Provos are for real."

Mr Ervine, a member of the Assembly, said there was danger that unionists, nervous about the intentions of republicans, would walk away from the deal and collapse it.

"The unionist populace tragically believe the Provos are complicit in the violence of recent days. Thankfully, loyalist paramilitaries do not share that view but they are beginning to look in that direction.

"The violent nationalist movement is doing absolutely nothing to show they are for real," he said.

Pressure also came from Gary McMichael, leader of the loyalist Ulster Democratic Party, who met Northern Ireland Secretary Mo Mowlam at Stormont to voice concerns within the loyalist community over escalating republican attacks. The meeting took place after a gun attack on a police station in Lurgan, Co Armagh yesterday and in the wake of Monday's admission by the "Real" IRA that it planted a bomb that devastated Banbridge, Co Down.

Mr McMichael said: "There needs to be a quick and strong security response to root these people out of society before they become a more potent threat than they already are. If it is not nipped in the bud, it will become more unmanageable and more uncontrollable."

Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness yesterday accused Mr Ervine and Mr McMichael of "hypocrisy" and "abdicating their responsibilities".

He said: "There would have been no peace process, no agreement, and the current opportunity for peace would not exist, if it were not for the risks and initiatives taken in recent years by Sinn Fein."

Mr McGuinness said if the loyalists were serious about ending conflict and building a new future, it was time they stopped "making excuses" and talked directly to Sinn Fein.

Ms Mowlam insisted that the security forces were doing "all they can", but she said it was very difficult for the Army and police to combat the small and less structured splinter groups.

"We are doing everything possible, in conjunction with the police, to deal with the difficulties, but it is very, very difficult," she said.

"They are trying to undermine the process, undermine David Trimble, and I think people ought to see it for what it is."

Leading article,

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Mo Mowlam,

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