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Friday, 12 October, 2001, 16:54 GMT 17:54 UK
UDA ceasefire: 1994 - 2001
A UDA/UFF mural in Belfast
Staking out territory: A UDA/UFF mural in Belfast
The UDA ceasefire came in the wake of that declared by the IRA - but has crumbled amid factions, feuding and continuing sectarian attacks, writes BBC News Online's Dominic Casciani.

On 13 October 1994, Northern Ireland woke up to find that the Combined Loyalist Military Command, a group of men representing the core command structure of the main Protestant loyalist paramilitaries, had responded to the IRA's ceasefire by calling a halt to "operational hostilities".

Reading the statement on behalf of these paramilitary groups, the senior loyalist figure Gusty Spence, said that the men who had claimed defence of the Union in carrying out sectarian killings offered their "abject and true remorse" to the relatives of victims.

"We must never again permit our political circumstances to degenerate into bloody warfare," he added.

But seven years later and the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) part of that ceasefire is, in the opinion of the government, over.

Two weeks ago the Northern Ireland Secretary, John Reid, gave the UDA one last chance to turn away from violence.

Many among Northern Ireland's shattered communities have long believed that the ceasefire was never complete in the first place and the UDA itself withdrew support for the Good Friday Agreement earlier this year. Now Mr Reid has announced that it, along with the LVF, have failed his tests and their ceasefires are at an end.

The government has been under pressure to declare its ceasefire over for most of the year after a massive rise in attacks against Catholic homes and rioting on the streets of Belfast, much of it blamed on loyalist paramilitaries.

But for years those close to loyalist thinking sought to explain away its violence on the basis that it was a reaction to the violence of republicans: If only the IRA would put down its guns, so would the loyalists, they argued.

Maze prison

During the early stages of the peace process, the decisions taken by paramilitary leaders were heavily influenced by the views of members inside the Maze prison.

Mo Mowlam in the Maze Prison
Mo Mowlam: Loyalist prison visit
When the INLA murdered LVF leader Billy Wright inside the jail in December 1997, it appeared that the loyalists would walk away from the process - despite the fact that Wright's group had come into existence because of a split among the UVF and the breakdown of the combined command.

They decided to maintain the ceasefire but only after the then Secretary of State Mo Mowlam visited senior loyalists in the jail to urge them to stick with the process.

During the final stages of the Good Friday Agreement, the loyalist paramilitaries were also instrumental in a deal that would see their members leave prison providing the organisations were on ceasefire.

But at the subsequent elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly, there was a significant set back for the small loyalist parties.

Sinn Fein politically benefited from the IRA ceasefire, gaining enough seats to take two ministerial posts.

But the Progressive Unionist Party, the political wing of the UVF, took only two seats while the Ulster Democratic Party, linked to the UDA, failed to win any at all.

Gary McMichael, the UDP's leader and son of the murdered UDA deputy leader John McMichael, said that it was a blow but he was committed to the Good Friday Agreement, as were the men his party represented.

Drifting away

While the peace process has alternated between periods of crisis and periods of hope, more and more loyalists paramilitaries have drifted away from the ceasefires.

UDA leader Johnny Adair
Johnny Adair: Returned to jail
One of the most distressing days of the process came on 12 July 1998, the traditional height of the marching season.

Richard Quinn, 10, and his two younger brothers Mark, 9, and Jason, 8, were killed when loyalists petrol bombed their Ballymoney house amid the standoff over the Drumcree parade.

Many people believed at that point that the loyalist ceasefire was a sham - but the politicians sought to struggle forwards.

In the midst of this rising tension was a developing turf war between the UVF and the UDA which not only turned into a fatal feud during 2000 but made a mockery of any attempts to resurrect a combined loyalist command.

By the time the feud was resolved, seven people were dead and hundreds of people had either fled or been forced from homes in the predominantly Protestant Shankill road area of Belfast.

The feud also seemed to be linked to the activities of Johnny Adair, the UDA commander who controversially appeared at the Drumcree demonstrations of 2000 before he was returned to prison.

As the loyalists entered 2001, there was not only an air of bad blood among their members but an increasing political vacuum and divisions among the leadership - all of which was increasing the likelihood that the ceasefires would no longer be valid. Secondly, the security forces say that many members were increasingly involved in racketeering, the drugs trade and organised crime.

Violent year

Throughout this year, there have been more than 200 pipebomb attacks on Catholic homes, predominantly in Belfast but also in Larne, thought to be largely the work of members of the UDA, sanctioned by their leadership or otherwise.

A UDA gunman on the Shankill Road, 11 July 2001
Show of strength: UDA in public this year
At this year's marching season celebration on 11 July, gunmen from both the UFF and UVF carried out their own "show of strength" displays (shooting volleys into the air) on different parts of the Shankill Road.

At the same time, the attempt to break the political impasse appeared to be getting nowhere.

The PUP withdrew from the talks, saying that until republicans set out their terms for decommissioning, it was impossible to negotiate with them.

Then, in a separate and more serious development, the UFF said that it no longer supported the Good Friday Agreement, but insisted that its ceasefire was intact.

With a rising number of attacks against homes and allegations of UDA involvement in the Holy Cross school stand off, it was only a matter of time before the government was finally going to act.

The fact that the LVF is now being investigated in connection with the killing of Sunday World journalist Martin O'Hagan, means that its ceasefire has also been declared over.

Find out more about the latest moves in the Northern Ireland peace process

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