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Monday, December 29, 1997 Published at 08:51 GMT


Mowlam briefed after Ulster violence
image: [ Leaders are discussing the weekend's violence at the Maze prison ]
Leaders are discussing the weekend's violence at the Maze prison

Senior police and prison officers have been briefing the Northern Ireland Secretary, Mo Mowlam, on the prospects of the ceasefire holding.

The emergency talks follow the murder of loyalist terrorist Billy Wright inside Northern Ireland's Maze prison and a revenge attack by the Loyalist Volunteer Force on Sunday in which a former Republican prisoner was murdered outside a hotel in County Tyrone. Three other people were wounded in the gun attack.

The Northern Ireland secretary, Mo Mowlam, talks about the aims of Moday's talks (1'26")
Ms Mowlam wants an explanation for Wright's murder. Security and conditions in the jail were also being discussed.

A dangerous and testing time

[ image: Mo Mowlam:
Mo Mowlam:" Weekend's events were vicious and senseless"
Ms Mowlam described the weekend's events as having created a "dangerous and testing" time for the peace negotiations in Northern Ireland.

"What is taking place is vicious and senseless and I would ask anyone with influence to bear to ensure that it stops and stops now," she said.

'Two roads ahead'

Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness expressed similar fears.

Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness reacts to the recent violence (2'55")
"It is a difficult and dangerous time, there is no question or doubt about it ... I feel like people need to draw a breath and recognise that there are two roads ahead of us.

[ image: Sinn Fein MP Martin McGuinness]
Sinn Fein MP Martin McGuinness
"As I've said many times in the past: One is the road to further conflict and one is the road to the negotiating table."

Indeed, the killings in Northern Ireland on Saturday and the reactions of horror by politicians and church leaders are reminiscent of the violent era which the peace negotiations are meant to be drawing to a close.

BBC Correspondent, Denis Murray, says the situtation is as volatile as it has been in months.

On Saturday, Billy Wright, the leader of the splinter Protestant paramilitary group, the Loyalist Volunteer Force, was shot dead inside a high security prison by gunmen from a dissident republican group.

[ image: Seamus Dillon, a Republican, served a life sentence for murder]
Seamus Dillon, a Republican, served a life sentence for murder
Retaliation for his death followed several hours later when masked men drove up to a hotel in Dungannon that is said to be popular with Catholics and opened fire on people standing in the doorway.

One man, Seamus Dillon, 45, died in hospital. Mr Dillon was a former Republican prisoner, who had served a life sentence for murder.

The attack also wounded two other men and a 14-year-old boy, who was employed by the hotel as a dishwasher.

The Loyalist Volunteer Force has threatened to carry out further attacks.

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