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Friday, January 2, 1998 Published at 11:59 GMT


Security checks increased in Northern Ireland
image: [ An Army presence after the shootings ]
An Army presence after the shootings

The RUC Chief Constable, Ronnie Flanagan, has said police patrols have been stepped up following recent paramilitary killings.

He spoke after meeting the Northern Ireland Secretary, Mo Mowlam, for crisis talks on Friday morning.

[ image: RUC Chief Constable Ronnie Flanagan: increasing patrols]
RUC Chief Constable Ronnie Flanagan: increasing patrols
Security forces are worried about escalating gun violence following the murder of the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) leader Billy Wright inside the Maze jail.

The LVF has vowed to carry out more attacks on Catholics to revenge Wright's shooting.

RUC Chief Constable Ronnie Flanagan describes the New Year's Eve killers as a "danger to society" (2' 13")
"We have increased our patrols significantly to thwart that threat," Mr Flanagan said.

He added: "We need all the public assistance we can get.

"People know the regular routine of activity in their areas and if they detect any departure from that regular routine, if they see strangers or if they see cars which they don't recognise they should contact us immediately.

"We are there in numbers to protect people but we need assistance in order to ensure that protection is properly effective."

The most recent attacks came on New Year's Eve when gunmen killed one man and injured five others.

Mr Flanagan said he believed the LVF carried out this murder and warned that there remained a chance of further retribution.

"I can't say at this stage there is no risk of further attack," he said. "But we must all work together to prevent further attacks. The police are there in vulnerable areas to protect people.

"We have had dreadful murders in recent days and sadly I cannot say that is the last murder we're going to witness. But it must be kept in proportion."

Gary Duffy reports from Belfast (Dur 2'30")
His meeting with Ms Mowlam came as the 161 republican and loyalist prisoners released over Christmas began to return to the Maze and Maghaberry prisons.

Ms Mowlam suspended her New Year break in England to meet Mr Flanagan amid fears for the peace process.

[ image: Flowers mark the murder scene]
Flowers mark the murder scene
The LVF, which claims responsibility for the December 31 attack, issued a statement saying: "This is not the end."

There is also speculation in Northern Ireland that the LVF could have had help for the attack from one of the mainstream paramilitary groups who are taking part in the Stormont peace talks.

The car used in the attack was hijacked in a part of the city where the splinter group does not enjoy wide support.

The Primate of the Church of Ireland, Dr Robin Eames, said Northern Ireland is "at the beginning of a very dark and dangerous period" after the machine gun attack in a Belfast bar on New Year's Eve.

Speaking on Irish radio, Dr Eames said: "Obviously we are all shocked and saddened to see what we had hoped was well behind us and well in the past."

But he also spoke of "a deep feeling of resentment" within Ulster's Protestant community over their treatment in the peace process.

He issued a direct message to those involved in the murder: "You do not represent the majority in either of our communities ... get off our backs, stop it."

Police and troops are on full alert and possible Catholic targets have been warned to be on their guard.

Dr Eames's comments were echoed by his Catholic opposite number, Dr Sean Brady, who admitted he was aware of "deep fears there ... obviously they cannot be dismissed, but I think progress has been made, we must not lose sight of that."

The tit-for-tat attacks have also been condemned by the Irish government. The Foreign Minister, David Andrews, said there could be no place in society for the "obscenities" of recent days.


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