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Killings dampen Ulster peace hope

YET ANOTHER killing in Northern Ireland - the tenth in just over a week - yesterday deepened the atmosphere of despondency and increased fears that the peace process may be collapsing under the onslaught of violence.

The latest killing was carried out by the IRA, which disclosed during the afternoon that it had shot and killed an alleged Royal Ulster Constabulary informer and dumped his body near the border.

A body was discovered near Newry, Co Down, and last night a joint security operation was under way on both sides of the border. Police said the security forces would not move in until they were satisfied no booby-traps had been laid.

Widespread condemnation of the spate of killings from the Government, the security forces, politicians and the clergy appears to be having no effect on either the IRA or loyalist groups. The security forces believe both are gearing up for further violence.

The fact that the IRA has returned to a high level of violence has dispelled some hope of peace, but some observers argue that the peace process will come back into prominence. In the meantime, the body count is mounting daily.

One funeral took place yesterday, and four more are to be held today.

Eric Smith, 40, the IRA victim who died near Armagh city late on Thursday, was not, as the organisation claimed, a member of the Royal Irish Regiment. Mr Smith, a father of three, was ambushed by gunmen as he arrived home. He had been a member of the Ulster Defence Regiment but left in 1990 and did not join its successor, the RIR.

In Belfast, meanwhile, an SDLP delegation met senior RUC officers to press for greater protection of Catholic areas from loyalist attacks.