Reid gives UDA last chance to end the violence

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The Independent Online

Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid yesterday dramatically drew back from declaring that the ceasefire of the Ulster Defence Association was at an end, giving the loyalist group one last chance halt its street violence.

Mr Reid had been poised to formally specify that the cessation of the UDA, the largest loyalist terrorist organisation, was over when he received last-minute information that it would pull out of the north Belfast disturbances.

UDA commanders were said to have met early yesterday and decided to ease back on the violence which has seen more than 40 police officers injured in a 48-hour period.

The UDA move was regarded with much scepticism, given its suddenness and the organisation's track record of giving out misleading information. Sinn Fein described Mr Reid's move as remarkable, declaring: "Catholics do not trust the UDA and the many victims of the UDA do not trust them."

Mr Reid himself expressed little faith in the UDA, declaring that he was deeply sceptical but prepared to put the UDA to the test. 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 in Belfast tonight, the UDA will be specified tomorrow."

In north Belfast yesterday seven children were slightly injured when a bus taking them to one of Northern Ireland's small number of integrated schools was hit by a concrete block.

The block was thrown at the bus as it was taking children to Hazelwood Integrated College. It went through a window, showering glass on the pupils aged between 12 and 16.

They were taken to hospital for treatment for cuts, but none was seriously injured. All were later allowed to go home.

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