Saturday, July 31, 1999 Published at 16:15 GMT 17:15 UK
Murder prompts fears for IRA ceasefire
Police blame unidentified paramilitaries for the killing
A leading member of the Progressive Unionist Party has said the murder of a Belfast taxi driver is proof that the IRA ceasefire is starting to unravel.
David Ervine told Radio Ulster on Saturday that he was no longer optimistic about the prospects for success in the review of the Northern Ireland peace process.
''We are beginning to see that elements of the Provos (IRA) are looking like they are drifting away from commitment to the Good Friday Agreement.''
Mr Ervine, whose party has links with two of the main loyalist paramilitary groups, the UVF and Red Hand Commando, said that the murder had a very negative impact on the loyalist community's confidence in the process.
"That certainly is impressing on the mind of loyalism that the Good Friday Agreement may not be the vehicle which delivers and I think that the more that sense of pessimism exists, the worse things are going to get."
Mr Ervine added that he feared Northern Ireland was a pot building up a head of steam, which could boil over in September, when the review of the failure to implement the Good Friday Agreement is due to start.
He said negative megaphone diplomacy by the party leaders must stop in the run up to the review or it was in danger of becoming a 'nonsense' with parties staying away, or of not taking place at all.
He said: "If we can't be positive then we must shut up."
However, Sinn Fein chief whip Alex Maskey has accused Mr Ervine of "pandering to the negative elements of unionism" who wish to push Sinn Fein out of the Assembly.
"We do not speak for the IRA but Gerry Adams said yesterday that Sinn Fein believes the ceasefire is holding.
"What is happening is certain people are predictably jumping at every opportunity on every incident to seek Sinn Fein's exclusion from the Assembly.''
Mr Maskey added: "David Ervine also cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that loyalist violence has been almost a daily experience, to the fact that there have been arms finds as recently last week in loyalist areas, to the acknowledged fact that the two largest loyalist groupings - the UDA and the UVF - are engaged in a feud.
"I would ask him to accentuate the positive as he has done in the past and stop the negative media spin which may actually be acting as a smokescreen for what is going on in his community."
Paramilitary style execution
Mr Bennett was found dead behind a social club on Milltown Row, in the Falls Road area of west Belfast on Friday, with a cloth over his face and his hands tied behind his back. He had been missing for five days.
Both the SDLP and unionists have blamed republicans for the murder.