Ulster security tightened again

A FULL security alert returned to Northern Ireland last night as the IRA's 72-hour Christmas ceasefire drew to a close.

No terrorist incident - by either the IRA or loyalists - was recorded during the three days but there were fears in security circles that the IRA would resume its campaign quickly to show it could turn violence on and off.

Leaders of the IRA and its political wing Sinn Fein were still deciding on their response to the Downing Street declaration.

During the Christmas holiday the pressure mounted on terrorists to give up violence and take the path of peace. The Queen, in her Christmas message, led millions in praying for peace, and was supported in separate messages by Church leaders.

Archbishop Robin Eames, head of the Church of Ireland, urged the terrorists and their supporters to stop the violence now. 'It is time they came out of the darkness and the sinister world they have created around themselves.'

Catholic Cardinal Cahal Daly said the road to peace was not going to be easy but enormous opportunities lay ahead. 'I see a great future opening up for this land of ours,' he said.

The Irish Prime Minister, Albert Reynolds, said that if the path to peace was taken there would be a huge task of reconciliation that would take a generation.

Writing in Northern Ireland's Sunday Life, he accepted it would take a little time for the various factions in the conflict to make up their minds on the declaration. 'Peace has huge implications for everyone. It is right that people should be given a little space and time to think through the alternatives both for themselves and their communities.'

It was reported yesterday that imprisoned UVF terrorists were prepared to accept the Major-Reynolds declaration.

One man at home with his family during Christmas parole from the Maze Prison said all 93 of the UVF men in the jail had studied the joint declaration and thought it fair.

Billy Giles, 36, serving life for the 1982 murder of a Catholic, told the Sunday Times: 'The guys in the jail have looked at this document and the feeling is that there is nothing in there which is worth killing people for. We are quite happy with what we see and I think the Provisionals are pushed into a corner.'

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