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Thursday, March 4, 1999 Published at 00:50 GMT


Loyalist paramilitary groups banned

The Red Hand Defenders have been linked to the LVF

Two loyalist paramilitary organisations opposed to the Northern Ireland peace agreement have been banned.

Northern Ireland Secretary Mo Mowlam has announced that the Orange Volunteers and the Red Hand Defenders, two splinter groups, are to be proscribed from midnight on Wednesday.

Both organisations have been linked to a series of sectarian attacks on Catholics in various parts of Northern Ireland.

Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness recently stunned members of the province's assembly when he produced part of a grenade he said had been thrown in his constituency by members of the loyalist organisations.

Mr McGuinness said the grenade was only one of a consignment smuggled into the country.

The Orange Volunteers have said they will attack republican prisoners freed under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement in November 1998.

In a statement it branded the IRA's ceasefire a short-term tactic.

It said: "We are prepared to defend our people and if it comes to the crunch we will assassinate the enemies of Ulster.

"Ordinary Catholics have nothing to fear from us. But the true enemies will be targeted, and that's a lot wider than just Sinn Fein and the IRA."

The Red Hand Defenders emerged during the Drumcree crisis last summer when the loyalist Orange Order was banned from marching down its traditional route in Portadown.

It has been linked with members of the Loyalist Volunteer Force, which has declared a ceasefire.

Dr Mowlam also announced that she has accepted that a six-month ceasefire by the Irish National Liberation Army was complete and unequivocal.

But she has also called on the republican paramilitary organisation to co-operate fully with the decommissioning body to hand over its illegal weapons.



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