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Saturday, 13 October, 2001, 04:14 GMT 05:14 UK
Politicans assess ceasefire end
The UDA had been warned the ceasefire was under review
The decision followed fresh outbreaks of violence
Politicians in Northern Ireland are considering the implications of the government's declaration that the ceasefires of two of the loyalist paramilitary groups are over after recent violence.

Northern Ireland Secretary Dr John Reid made the announcement that the Ulster Defence Association and Loyalist Volunteer Force ceasefires were at an end at Hillsborough Castle on Friday afternoon.

The decision followed the murder of a journalist and an upsurge in street violence.

Despite fears of heightened risk of street trouble and other violence, the situation was quiet overnight on Friday.

Mr Reid said both groups have been respecified - meaning the government no longer recognises their ceasefires.

"They have systematically breached their ceasefires and I believe the patience of the people of Northern Ireland has run out," Dr Reid said.

Northern Ireland secretary John Reid
Dr John Reid has declared ceasefires over
Increased security is likely to follow the government's ruling.

Dr Reid said: "The security forces will get the full backing of the government in anything they need to do."

It is just two weeks since Dr Reid was on the brink of declaring the ceasefire of the UDA - the largest loyalist paramilitary organisation - to be over.

In September the RUC said the UDA had orchestrated several nights of serious rioting in north Belfast during which the police were attacked with guns and blast bombs. Scores of officers were injured.

Dr Reid said the RUC chief constable had briefed him that the UDA was also behind trouble on the Shankill Road on Thursday night, during which vehicles were hi-jacked and burned and the police were attacked with petrol and blast bombs.

The Northern Ireland secretary said he felt he had made the right decision not to specify the UDA two weeks ago because there was "nothing to be lost and everything to be gained from putting them to the test".

They had failed that test, he said.

He also said police inquiries into the murder of investigative journalist Martin O'Hagan near his home in County Armagh were concentrating on the LVF, a loyalist splinter group.

The police have said the UDA was involved in recent north Belfast violence
The police have said the UDA was involved in recent north Belfast violence
The Red Hand Defenders, a cover name used in the past by both the Loyalist Volunteer Force and the Ulster Defence Association, said it carried out the murder.

But the weapon used to kill the father-of-three is understood to have been linked to a previous LVF shooting.

'Prisoners could be returned'

Asked what the specification would mean in real terms for the two groups, Dr Reid said some paramilitary prisoners released early under the Good Friday Agreement could be returned to jail.
The police believe the LVF murdered journalist Martin O'Hagan
The police believe the LVF murdered journalist Martin O'Hagan
He said: "If there are people who are on licence and whose licence period has not yet expired, it will have implications for them.

"And if there are those in jail belonging to these organisations hoping to benefit from the release scheme, it could affect them. It also applies to any offences before the Good Friday Agreement for which people may not have been charged."

John White of the Ulster Democratic Party, which is linked to the UDA, said some members of the organisation had been "flippant" in response to the government's move.

He said: "They said they'll set their own agenda and they're not concerned about whether the secretary of state declares their ceasefire over or not.

"But they're saying their collective organisation is still on ceasefire and that's what's important."

Specification welcomed

Sinn Fein and the SDLP welcomed the announcement.

Gerry Kelly of Sinn Fein said Dr Reid had finally "accepted what Catholic victims of the UDA have been telling them for well over a year and to accept that they called it wrong two weeks ago".

SDLP assembly member Brid Rodgers said: "It is my firm hope that the secretary of state and the chief constable will now move quickly to send those individuals behind the recent murder of Martin O'Hagan and the disgraceful violence in Belfast to prison where they belong."

But hardline Ulster Unionist MP Jeffrey Donaldson expressed fears that the move could lead to more trouble on the streets.

"This is a very serious development. I would urge the UDA and LVF to take steps to end the violence, but I'm very worried about what may happen in the next few days," the Lagan Valley MP said.

Mr Donaldson also criticised the government for not acting against the IRA.

And he said the government should have ensured the ceasefires of all the paramilitary groups were holding, before giving their prisoners early release.

His comments were echoed by North Belfast Democratic Unionist Party MP Nigel Dodds who said Dr Reid was afraid of the political ramifications of declaring the IRA ceasefire was over.

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Denis Murray
"Dr Reid said the patience of the people of Northern Ireland has run out"
Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid
"They have systematically breached their ceasefires"

Assembly back

IRA arms breakthrough

Background

Loyalist ceasefire

FORUM

SPECIAL REPORT: IRA

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TEXTS/TRANSCRIPTS

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See also:

12 Oct 01 | Northern Ireland
Reid acted on 'ceasefire farce'
12 Oct 01 | Northern Ireland
UDA ceasefire: 1994 - 2001?
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
28 Sep 01 | Northern Ireland
UDA ceasefire: 1994 - 2001?
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