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The BBC's David Eades
"This peace deal does give the people of Shankhill some hope"
 real 56k

Saturday, 16 December, 2000, 10:08 GMT
Clinton welcomes loyalist peace

US President Bill Clinton has welcomed the decision by loyalist paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland to end their feud.

In a statement on Friday, the groups said they had settled the conflict which claimed seven lives.

It was released after leading figures in the paramilitary Ulster Defence Association, the rival Ulster Volunteer Force and its sister organisation, the Red Hand Commando, met in Belfast.

The dispute between the UDA/UFF and the UVF erupted in Belfast in August.

During the violence, about 200 families were forced out of their homes.

The statement said that there had been a "series of intense negotiations by the inner council of the UDA, brigade command of the UVF, and the brigade staff of the RHC".

David Ervine:
David Ervine: "It comes down to trust"
It continued: "A series of mechanisms have been created at both leadership and local level throughout each organisation to ensure that any disputes that may arise are resolved in a peaceful manner to the benefit of all our members and communities in which they live."

President Bill Clinton, who spent Wednesday in Northern Ireland talking to political leaders, said he was delighted paramilitary groups had committed themselves to an open-ended cessation of hostilities.

He said their action responded to the "overwhelming desire of people in Northern Ireland to see peace flourish and endure".

He also congratulated loyalist political leaders who he said "worked hard" to bring the feud to an end.

The end of the violent dispute has also been welcomed by the British Government.

Northern Ireland Secretary of State Peter Mandelson said: "I know from my extensive contacts with many people in the Shankill and north Belfast area that this is what they have been looking for, for quite some time.

"And I am deeply grateful, as they will be, to those who have worked so hard to bring this about.

"They have done a great service to their community and to the people of Northern Ireland."

'Wonderful fruit'

Later on Friday, David Ervine, a member of the Northern Ireland Assembly whose Progressive Unionist Party is linked to the UVF, said: "A lot of genuine people have worked hard to bring this feud to an end and create the circumstances where it will never happen again."

Mr Ervine said: "It comes down to trust and it's been difficult to try and build that trust. That is why the dialogue has perhaps taken so long to deliver such a wonderful fruit."

John White, chairman of the Ulster Democratic Party which has links with the UDA, said he too believed the organisations were determined to make sure the truce did not collapse.

John White:
John White: "Majority of people will be relieved"
Mr White: "I believe the vast majority of people throughout Northern Ireland will be relieved to hear this announcement.

"It is incumbent on the three organisations to build confidence within the loyalist community which has been so seriously damaged."

The feud erupted at a UDA-linked festival on the Shankill Road in August ago and saw three men murdered.

Release challenged

At the height of the shootings, Johnny Adair, a convicted UFF commander in Belfast's Shankill area who had been freed early from a 14-year jail term under the Good Friday Agreement, was sent back to prison on the orders of Mr Mandelson.

He is being held in Maghaberry Prison, near Lisburn, County Antrim and the government is challenging any move to have him freed again.

There was a period of calm before four men were shot dead and one seriously wounded in the north of the city in October.

This dispute was thought to have been separate from the infighting in west Belfast as it involved local factions of the two loyalist organisations.

Security sources said it flared up following an argument in a Belfast pub.

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See also:

12 Dec 00 | Northern Ireland
Hopes of end to violent feud
06 Nov 00 | Northern Ireland
Family call for end to 'murder madness'
30 Oct 00 | Northern Ireland
Talks call after Belfast murder
17 Nov 00 | Northern Ireland
Loyalist feud truce hopes
23 Aug 00 | Northern Ireland
History of the loyalist feud
23 Aug 00 | Northern Ireland
Who are the loyalist paramilitaries?
15 Dec 00 | Northern Ireland
Loyalist statement in full
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