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Friday, 14 June, 2002, 20:01 GMT 21:01 UK
'No first strike' say loyalists
Mark Durkan visited Short Strand residents
Mark Durkan visited Short Strand residents
Loyalist paramilitaries have vowed not to initiate any violence against republican communities in an effort to defuse tensions in interface areas of Belfast.

In a statement from the Loyalist Commission at midday on Friday, the paramilitaries pledged to adhere to a "no first strike" policy.

The commission called for "reciprocation" from republicans to ensure that the iniative works.

The move has been welcomed by Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid.

Firefighter
There has been violence across Belfast
The commission met on Thursday to discuss the initiative but put it on hold after violence broke out in the Short Strand area of east Belfast

A blast bomb type device exploded in Madrid Street and a woman was taken to hospital with what is thought to be shrapnel wounds.

The mother-of-six was standing on her doorstep when the incident happened.

Army bomb experts examined a further unexploded device in Madrid Street.

Police fired a number of plastic baton rounds.

Community activist

A police officer was injured after being struck with a stone.

A number of people were taken to hospital after stonethrowing in the Mountpottinger area.

Joe O'Donnell, the Sinn Fein councillor for the area, said the injuries happened when nationalists were attacked as they held a protest in Short Strand.

But Frankie Gallagher, an east Belfast community activist and worker, said loyalists came under attack from nationalists.

The Loyalist Commission accused republicans of a systematic campaign of agitation.

John Reid: Secretary of State
John Reid: Welcome for loyalist statement

The three-page statement on Friday claimed the IRA ceasefire was no longer intact.

A spokesman said: "There are no indications that republican agreession will diminish, rather experience shows they will simply broaden the violence to other areas."

John Reid said the initiative had the potential of "bringing about a reduction in the tension and violence experienced by both communities over recent weeks and months".

"It further holds out the prospect of a more stable and peaceful summer than many of us might have expected," said Dr Reid.

Deputy First Minister Mark Durkan visited the Short Strand on Friday night, viewing damage to houses caused during recent sectarian trouble in the area.

Mr Durkan spoke to local people during a walkabout in Madrid Street and Clandeboye Drive, the scene of some of the worst trouble in recent weeks.

At one point, Mr Durkan, the nationalist SDLP leader, was criticised by a local man over his party's support for the police.

In response to the loyalist statement, Mr Durkan said: "It is understandable that nationalist people have a degree of scepticism about this statement when you see the paramilitaries saying that they are reaffirming a no first strike principle.

"I don't think people feel that they have seen a no first strike principle in operation before today."

The recent violence in north, south and east Belfast had led to fears that the situation will get worse rather than better during the summer.

But efforts have been made to ease the tension.

The Loyalist Commission was set up to give political analysis to the paramilitary groups. It followed the dissolution of the Ulster Democratic Party, which was linked to the Ulster Defence Association.

Ulster Unionists, church leaders and representatives of the UDA and the Ulster Volunteer Force are among those who sit on the commission.

The police believe recent loyalist and republican violence was orchestrated.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC NI's Shane Glynn:
"The Loyalist Commission statement has met with a mixed reaction in the area"
BBC NI's Mark Simpson:
"Securing a deal is one thing, making it stick will be even harder"
SDLP leader Mark Durkan
called for politicians to unite in condemning the violence in the area
See also:

10 Jun 02 | N Ireland
10 Jun 02 | N Ireland
10 Jun 02 | N Ireland
08 Jun 02 | N Ireland
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