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Saturday, January 24, 1998 Published at 15:46 GMT


UFF denies murder
image: [ The UFF killings have have put the peace process under severe strain ]
The UFF killings have have put the peace process under severe strain

The loyalist paramilitary group, the Ulster Freedom Fighters, has said it had nothing to do with Friday's murder of a Catholic man in north Belfast.

Liam Conway, a gas worker, was shot in the head just hours after the UFF admitted being involved in recent sectarian killings.

Earlier, Britain's Northern Ireland Secretary, Mo Mowlam had warned the Ulster Democratic Party, which represents the UFF, it may lose its seat at Northern Ireland peace talks after the paramilitaries admitted breaking their ceasefire.

Ms Mowlam said: "The UDP may want to explain themselves further, but it will be for the two governments (London and Dublin) to decide what action to take in light of what is said," she added.

The UFF said it continued to back the UDP's participation in the peace talks at Stormont, near Belfast and that it was restoring its ceasefire.

But nationalists want the party thrown out because of the breach to the talks' principles of democracy and non-violence.

Latest attack

Denis Murray, BBC Ireland correspondent, says it is an amazing admission by the UFF (1'22")
In the latest attack on Friday afternoon a gunman shot Belfast gas worker Liam Conway, 39, twice in the head as he worked in the north of the city.

One witness said: "He had kids playing around his digger all day. It's unbelievable to think this has happened."

Mr Conway's death brings the number of Catholics killed in the past month to seven. Two Protestants have also died in the tit-for-tat shootings.

Military response unavoidable - UFF

The UFF's admission of a temporary return to violence came a day after the RUC Chief Constable, Ronnie Flanagan, accused it of involvement in the sectarian shootings.

The UFF then said it had responded to violence from the Irish National Liberation Army.

A UFF statement said: "The current phase of republican aggression by the INLA made a measured military response unavoidable. That response is now concluded."

Dr Mowlam said she welcomed the UFF's indication it had returned to its ceasefire.

But she added: "The acknowledgment that it has participated in such activity and the indication that the organisation may return to violence in the future is extremely worrying."

The Sinn Fein chief negotiator at Stormont, Martin McGuinness MP, said: "The orange card was played. Unionist politicians exercised a veto over progress in the talks. Catholics died and the British government succumbed to this pressure."

David Adams of the UDP explains how his party can continue (1'34")
The UDP says it still has something to offer around the talks-table.

A statement said: "We will continue to use all our influence, both inside and outside the negotiative process, in a wholly positive manner.

"The opportunity remains for the peace process to be stabilised and for the emergence of political agreement. It is vital that the UDP remains in a viable position to contribute to the negotiating process."

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