MPs expect IRA to declare ceasefire within three weeks

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A TEMPORARY ceasefire by the IRA 'within the next three weeks' is increasingly anticipated by senior politicians at Westminster.

Northern Ireland ministers expect a form of ceasefire to be announced but are contemptuous of the IRA's motives. They believe they will use a temporary ceasefire in an attempt to regain the initiative from the London and Dublin governments.

It would fall far short of the permanent cessation of violence required under the Downing Street Declaration, but would put pressure on the two governments to admit Sinn Fein to the talks. British ministers appeared determined to resist any calls for Sinn Fein to be admitted to the talks, until the terms have been met.

Some Northern Ireland MPs believe Gerry Adams, the Sinn Fein president, will announce a halt to IRA action. 'I expect something to happen within the next two or three weeks,' one nationalist MP said.

Three more people died in Northern Ireland yesterday as a result of the current upsurge in violence by loyalist and republican paramilitary groups, writes David McKittrick.

The Irish National Liberation Army attack which killed one Protestant man in Belfast on Thursday claimed another victim when one of those injured in the incident died in hospital. He was named locally as David Hamilton, who was in his 40s and owned a shop in the loyalist Shankill Road area of the city. Two further victims of the incident remain in hospital, one of them very seriously ill.

In another incident at lunchtime yesterday, loyalist gunmen opened fire on workers in a hut at a housing estate at Rushpark, just north of Belfast. They were apparently intent on killing Catholics but the man who died in the attack was a Protestant. After the shooting, police gave chase to a car near by and arrested a man.

Loyalists claimed another victim early yesterday when they shot and killed a 27- year-old taxi-driver, Gerard Brady, in the Co Antrim town of Carrickfergus. Mr Brady's girlfriend, a Protestant woman with whom he had two children, denied loyalist allegations that he was a republican activist.