Loyalists `will not end ceasefire'

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The Independent Online

Ireland Correspondent

An important indication that loyalist paramilitary groups are not considering ending their ceasefire, despite their disapproval of this week's Framework Document, came yesterday from a source close to them.

David Ervine, principal spokesman of the Progressive Unionist Party, which is associated with the Ulster Volunteer Force, said that the loyalist groups were as committed as ever to the peace.

Mr Ervine said in a radio interview that the document did not threaten the peace. His statement will be welcomed by both the British and Irish governments, who are aware that the document has not found favour with many sections of loyalism. Mr Ervine attacked many aspects of the document but made it clear that loyalist opposition to it should not be expected to take the form of violence.

He described it as a badly-weighted document, saying that Gerry Adams, the president of Sinn Fein, was right to describe it as all-Ireland in nature.

He added: "People are not jumping up and down and pulling their hair out. I think they're realistic enough to say, well, there's a lot of anger and upset here, but this is one document of many which will end up on the table.

"If we maintain dialogue, which I sincerely hope we do, the melting pot of discussion will have a plethora of paper to go through. Realism will be the order of the day." And he said of the ceasefire: "I am not clairvoyant but I do not see it being jeopardised in the foreseeable future."

James Molyneaux, leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, said in his first interview since the framework document was launched on Wednesday that the Government had effectively ended its relationship with his party. He said that he had no intention of stepping down as party leader, adding: "I've a bigger job to do now, reversing the disastrous course and steering back on to true Ulster Unionist policies."

He said his party would decide at the last moment how to vote in next Wednesday's European vote in the Commons.

t The first poll since the launch of the Framework Document, by Alster Marketing Surveys for Channel 4 News, suggests that 51 per cent of Northern Ireland's population regard the document's proposals as the basis for a lasting peace, though only 36 per cent of Protestants agree. Fifty- four per cent of the 1,150 interviewees thought the proposals would eventually lead to a united Ireland.

It indicates, however, that a large majority of people in the province, 87 per cent, want the political parties they support to take part in the planned talks on the document.

Sixty-three per cent of respondents said they would vote for Northern Ireland to remain within the UK if a referendum were held now.