Belfast quieter after ultimatum to UDA from Reid

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The Ulster Defence Association, Northern Ireland's largest paramilitary organisation, has responded to the threat of its ceasefire being declared over by providing two nights of complete peace in the riot-ravaged north of Belfast.

After weeks of violence in which scores of police have been injured, Friday and Saturday nights saw a complete absence of street unrest.

John Reid, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, had warned on Friday that he would declare the ceasefire over if the UDA inspired any further violence. He said: "I will judge the UDA by its actions tonight, tomorrow night and every night ... I give this warning ... if there is UDA-inspired violence ... the UDA will be specified." His words had immediate effect.

Last night there were some minor skirmishes in north Belfast and some separate trouble in Ulster.

A police officer was injured and five youths were arrested for riotous behaviour when rival factions starting hurling fireworks, bottles and stones in Londonderry. An old people's home was attacked during violence which erupted in the aftermath of a football match between Glasgow Rangers and Celtic. Nobody was hurt but the residents were said by police to have been distressed.

North Belfast was the scene of fierce rioting last week that left dozens of police officers wounded and brought Mr Reid to the brink of declaring the ceasefire over.

Trouble erupted in the North Queen Street and New Lodge before order was restored a short time later. Clashes then broke out on the nearby Limestone Road, Newington and Carlisle Circus areas.

Once again the situation was quickly brought under control.

The killing on Friday night of the journalist Martin O'Hagan, 51, thought to be by the Loyalist Volunteer Force, is generally presumed to be unconnected with events in north Belfast.

Mr O'Hagan, who worked for the Dublin-based Sunday World, became the only journalist to die in the Northern Ireland troubles when he was shot as he walked home from a local bar in Lurgan, Co Armagh, with his wife. He was hit up to seven times in the attack, during which he reportedly tried to protect his wife, Marie. Mrs O'Hagan said: "I can't really remember what happened but people tell me Martin shoved me into the hedge and used his own body to try to shield me ... the fact that I wasn't shot dead or wounded speaks for itself."

The prime suspects for the killing are the breakaway LVF, a small but fierce organisation centred on Co Armagh. Mr O'Hagan repeatedly wrote articles about the group, often highlighting its involvement in the drugs trade.

Police have appealed for information about the murder. The Royal Ulster Constabulary's Chief Constable, Sir Ronnie Flanagan, said: "While this investigation is clearly in the early stage, it definitely carries the hallmark of an LVF killing. We believe it was a localised attack and will be looking at all key players within the ranks of the LVF."

Jim McDowell, the Northern Ireland editor of Mr O'Hagan's paper, said his colleague had been threatened by a well-known loyalist a few days ago.

The killing brought a flood of condemnation from political and other figures.

Colleagues of Mr O'Hagan vowed to continue their work against the paramilitaries who cut short his life.

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