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Wednesday, January 21, 1998 Published at 03:37 GMT


Wretched killers will not win - Blair
image: [ Tony Blair:
Tony Blair: "So important we show people they can have confidence in the future of Northern Ireland"

Tony Blair has condemned those responsible for the recent upsurge in sectarian violence in Northern Ireland.

The Prime Minister said the "wretched, wicked and evil" gunmen must not threaten the peace process.

He was speaking in The Hague amid growing speculation that one of the mainstream loyalist terror groups was involved in the murder of a Catholic taxi driver.

BBC Correspondent George Eykyn reports from Belfast (2' 10")
The latest victim, 52-year-old Larry Brennan, was shot as he got into his car in south Belfast on Monday evening. It followed the murder of a loyalist shopkeeper earlier in the day.

The Prime Minister said the situation was especially frustrating because the possibilities for a peaceful settlement had never been greater.

[ image: Catholic Larry Brennan was shot as he got into his taxi in south Belfast on Monday]
Catholic Larry Brennan was shot as he got into his taxi in south Belfast on Monday
"We have the parties at the table talking about the possible outlines of a settlement. We have people agreeing to discuss issues that they haven't discussed before," said Mr Blair.

"It is so important that we move this process on and show people they can have confidence in the future of Northern Ireland and that these wretched people - these wicked and evil people who are committing these killings in a bid to stop the process of talking, to halt the process of democracy - are not going to succeed."

Larry Brennan's sister Eilish O'Reilly (Dur 0' 29")
Politicians and victims' relatives also joined the call for an end to violence.

Speaking on BBC radio, Mr Brennan's sister pleaded with the killers to stop and said there should be no retaliation for her brother's death.

[ image: Eilish O'Reilly:
Eilish O'Reilly: "All this has to stop"
Eilish O'Reilly said: "I don't want anybody to take anybody's life in the name of my brother. All this has to stop."

The Northern Ireland Secretary, Mo Mowlam, appealed to all groups for calm amid fears that sectarian killings could escalate further.

The situation was serious but it was important for politicians to redouble their efforts for peace, she added.

She pleaded for an end to the bloodshed, which has been blamed on splinter paramilitary groups on both sides of the sectarian divide. "I beg people not to indulge in retaliation."

She added: "Why should we lose more lives when we are doing all we can to move things forward to provide an alternative?

[ image: Mo Mowlam:
Mo Mowlam: "I beg people not to indulge in retaliation"
"I'm determined not to let our will be broken by these groups, these splinter groups ... they are just interested in breaking the peace talks.

"The way we can deal with that fear is to have progress in the talks, to show there's a route other than violence."

The Irish Foreign Minister, David Andrews, echoed Dr Mowlam's warning. "I call on all involved to exercise the utmost restraint and recognise the futility of paramilitary violence," he said.

Former Irish Foreign Minister Dick Spring said 90% of the population in Northern Ireland supported what politicians were doing.

"Unfortunately, you have on the extremities of both communities the people responsible for the murders in the past two months," he added.

[ image: David Trimble:
David Trimble: "Talks will not satisfy republicans"
Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble said he feared the ceasefire would end because nothing was being offered to republicans in the talks that would satisfy them.

He said the loyalist killers were "criminal fools", manipulated by republicans.


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