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Tuesday, May 19, 1998 Published at 12:16 GMT 13:16 UK

Blair: 'It's so easy to say No'
image: [ Callers expressed concern about decommissioning and the release of prisoners ]
Callers expressed concern about decommissioning and the release of prisoners

The UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair, has told the voters of Northern Ireland to 'be honest with themselves' when they vote in Friday's referendum. He has also promised to clamp down more strongly than ever on fringe terrorists in the province who are continuing their campaigns of violence.

[ image: Tony Blair:
Tony Blair: "No is not an alternative"
In an interview with the BBC's Good Morning Ulster radio programme, which took place at 10 Downing Street, Mr Blair stressed that it was a free referendum and that no one would bully voters into making their decision. But he added: "It's so easy to say No, there has been a tradition of saying No.

"I understand the concerns that are raised, I understand the concern that people have about how we tell that violence has ended."

Tony Blair on why the Yes vote is crucial
On arms decommissioning, Mr Blair explained that an independent commission would be set up: "It is not just simply a question of decommissioning but a question of being clear that they have given up violence for good."

He told listeners that there would never be any agreement that everyone liked in its entirety but that the only alternative package was a No vote.

On the subject of the release of paramilitary prisoners, Mr Blair said he was aware of people's concerns: "We all loathe and detest what these people have done, we all regard them as criminals. The plain fact is that even without the agreement these people would be out in a few years."

The Blair interview - full report

Ashdown visit

[ image: Paddy Ashdown visited an itegrated school in Northern Ireland]
Paddy Ashdown visited an itegrated school in Northern Ireland
Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrat leader, Paddy Ashdown, has visited Northern Ireland in an attempt to bolster the cross-party Yes campaign.

Together with Lord Alderdice of the Alliance Party, Mr Ashdown met members of the RUC and soldiers serving in Northern Ireland.

Mr Ashdown, who served as a soldier on the streets of the province, hopes his visit might ease concerns among security personnel.

Concert for Yes campaign

Paddy Ashdown speaking during a visit to promote the Yes vote
The Liberal Democrat leader's visit came just hours before a pop concert also aimed at securing a Yes vote. Mr Ashdown said: "In the long term what matters is peace in Northern Ireland and not television images from a single night two or three days ago.

"The reality is in ten years time people will remember Good Friday for the peace it established and not for the unfortunate TV images that occurred one day but have gone the next."

At the concert, the Ulster Unionist leader, David Trimble, and the leader of the SDLP, John Hume, are to appear on stage together at Belfast's Waterfront Hall where rock bands U2 and Ash are playing live.

Mr Trimble said: " I'm delighted that groups of such eminence as U2 and Ash are coming to Belfast to have a concert in support of the Yes campaign. John Hume and myself are very much looking forward to being there."

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In this section

No camp rejects Blair campaign

'Trust me' appeals Blair

When is a Yes really a Yes?

Adams: 'I misjudged public reaction'

Referendum challenge fails

Prisoners' release could be key issue

Tourist office targeted

Cross-border fears for many unionists

Paisley: 'Agreement will dilute the union'