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Monday, January 5, 1998 Published at 18:30 GMT


Unionist leader discusses peace talks fears
image: [ Two-thirds of loyalist paramilitaries in the Maze have lost faith in the peace process ]
Two-thirds of loyalist paramilitaries in the Maze have lost faith in the peace process

The Ulster Unionist leader, David Trimble, has spent an hour with the Prime Minister, Tony Blair to discuss his concerns about Northern Ireland on a day that has seen a succession of damaging blows to the peace process.

Mr Trimble arrived unseen by reporters at Downing Street for the latest in a series of talks with the leaders of the main parties in the province.

He left without comment but Downing Street described the meeting as "positive." There was no threat by the Ulster Unionists to withdraw from the peace process.

The meeting was originally scheduled as one of a series Mr Blair has been holding with the leaders of the main parties in the province but events there have attached a much larger significance to the outcome.

[ image: Funeral of Eddie Treanor, security sources say the UFF may have killed him on New Year's Eve]
Funeral of Eddie Treanor, security sources say the UFF may have killed him on New Year's Eve
Earlier on Monday it emerged that a large number of loyalist inmates at the Maze Prison have decided to withdraw their support for the multi-party talks, claiming that too many concessions are being made to Sinn Fein.

The loyalist convicts, members of the largest loyalist paramilitary organistations, the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) and the Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF), voted on their return from Christmas leave to withhold their support for the talks process.

Sam McCrory outlines the strength of Maze prisoners opposition to the peace process 1'08"
Speaking from the Maze, a spokesman for the UDA and UFF prisoners, Sam McCrory, said the vote was an expression of "dismay" at the way the British government had been treating loyalists.

"It's not a vote against peace or for peace, it's against the peace process as a whole," he said.

[ image: Gary McMichael, leader of the Ulster Democratic Party]
Gary McMichael, leader of the Ulster Democratic Party
In a separate development a BBC correspondent in Belfast says there is growing evidence that the gun attack on a Catholic bar in Belfast on New Year's eve, in which one man was killed, was carried out by the UFF.

Security sources say evidence is hardening that although the small renegade Loyalist Volunteer Force claimed the attack, it was not them.

Gary McMichael, leader of the UDP on reports that the UFF murdered Eddie Treanor 1'14"
If this is confirmed, it could cause enormous damage to the peace process, outweighing the prisoners' no faith vote. It would throw the loyalist cease-fire into doubt because the UFF is represented at the multi-party peace talks by the Ulster Democratic Party led by Gary McMichael.

The Northern Ireland Secretary, Mo Mowlam has also come under pressure from unionist politicians who claim that she is not being even-handed in her dealings with loyalist and republican representatives.

Mo Mowlam is trying to convince all sides that she is act fairly. She is holding informal talks in Belfast on Monday with representatives of all sides to discuss the future of the Government's negotiations.

[ image: Rev Ian Paisley after meeting with Northern Ireland secretary, Mo Mowlam]
Rev Ian Paisley after meeting with Northern Ireland secretary, Mo Mowlam
The Reverend Ian Paisley, leader of the Democratic Unionist Party was first in to see Mrs Mowlam. He emerged insisting his party's boycott of peace talks would not change: "The Secretary of State is bowing to blackmail from those that are representing organisations that have got and will use guns."
Reverend Ian Paisley after meeting Northern Ireland Secretary Mo Mowlam 21"

Northern Ireland watchers are warning that resistance to the peace process within the loyalist community is growing dramatically.

Professor Paul Bew of Queen's University explains the mounting pressure on unionist politicians 2'11"
Professor Paul Bew who's an expert in Northern Ireland politics at Queen's University says poltical progress is urgently needed if unionist politicians committed to the peace process are not to be left exposed to intense pressure to pull out.

"The big implication of all this is that if there's going to be political progress it has to come now, very quickly indeed to justify the risks that they [unionist politicians] have taken."

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