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Friday, 12 October, 2001, 16:24 GMT 17:24 UK
Reid acted on 'ceasefire farce'
RUC vehicles block Shankill Road in Belfast during trouble
Trouble on Shankill Road led to John Reid's ruling
Now the government has ruled that the UDA and LVF ceasefires are officially over, security measures in Northern Ireland are likely to be stepped up.

But as BBC NI chief security correspondent Brian Rowan reports, sweeping sanctions against the loyalist paramilitaries are not expected.

It was the straw that broke the camal's back - or more accurately John Reid's back.

A fortnight after being told they were on their final warning, members of the UDA took to the streets of Belfast's lower Shankill Road on Thursday night.

Vehicles were set on fire and petrol bombs and blast devices thrown at the police.

It all happened in an area controlled by the UDA's so-called 'C' Company.

Cover name used

But, even late on Friday afternoon, the UDA tried to hide its involvement by issuing a statement in the name of the Red Hand Defenders.

That has long been recognised as nothing more than a cover behind which the UDA and the LVF have tried to hide themselves.

John Reid
John Reid: Gave UDA final chance
A fortnight ago, John Reid came within a whisker of re-specifying the UDA - the official term for declaring that the British Government no longer recognised the ceasefire it claimed to be observing.

But he backed off at the last minute and instead issued a final warning.

There was a backing off too by the UDA but few expected that to last - and they were right.

In searches of the lower Shankill on Thursday night the police uncovered what one senior source described as a "show-of-strength" kit - paramilitary uniforms, flags and replica guns.

Drugs and a pipe bomb were also discovered.

'No choice'

The area erupted into violence and on Friday morning security sources pointed the finger at the UDA.

One senior source said the secretary of state had been left with no choice other than to act in the way that had been promised a fortnight ago.

The ceasefire of the UDA is no longer recognised by the British Government because it could no longer, with any credibility, argue that it was intact.

A spate of sectarian pipe bombings, murder and attacks on the police had reduced that ceasefire to a farce.

And an organisation which never felt comfortable with the Good Friday Agreement, and which recently withdrew its support for it, now has a government black mark against its name.

There are no sweeping sanctions but many, particularly on the nationalist side, will see value in ending the nonsense of recognising a ceasefire that was so obviously in tatters.

Links to two murders

Dr Reid also acted against the splinter faction the LVF - the group blamed for the recent murder of the journalist Martin O'Hagan.

That is just one of a number of killings the LVF has been linked to since declaring its ceasefire in May 1998.

The group, which has forged close links with the UDA, is also suspected of being behind the murder of the solicitor Rosemary Nelson.

So, John Reid has acted and people will now wait to see what the reaction is from the UDA and the LVF.

There were fears a fortnight ago that if he had pushed ahead and declared the UDA ceasefire over, that there would have been a violent response.

That is still a concern and it will mean an increased security presence on the streets.

Northern Ireland's peace has been imperfect and this decision is yet another indication of just how fragile the process is.

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 ON THIS STORY
BBC NI chief security correspondent Brian Rowan
"There is no solid commitment within the UDA to the ceasefires"

Assembly back

IRA arms breakthrough

Background

Loyalist ceasefire

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See also:

12 Oct 01 | Northern Ireland
UDA linked to Belfast rioting
28 Sep 01 | Northern Ireland
UDA ceasefire warning
02 Oct 01 | Northern Ireland
Murder weapon linked to LVF
30 Sep 01 | Northern Ireland
Police appeal over journalist's murder
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