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Last Updated: Saturday, 9 October, 2004, 16:05 GMT 17:05 UK
IRA planning 'serious moves'
Mr Ervine said his party was never fixated on weapons
Mr Ervine said his party was never fixated on weapons
The Progressive Unionist Party believes there will be "serious movement" from the IRA in the next few months, its leader has said.

David Ervine told his party's annual conference on Saturday that devolution would be restored by next February.

But he warned the government that loyalist communities would need help to build on "ground-breaking" IRA moves.

He said republicans needed to "publicly reassure" loyalists that the "war was over".

"We are about to see serious movement by the IRA," the East Belfast assembly member said. "Of that, I do not have any doubt.

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"It will be historic, deeply significant and, undoubtedly, welcome.

"But how much more it would be welcome if it is accompanied by a statement that the war is over."

Mr Ervine said that in six months the focus would be on loyalism, with Protestant working-class communities needing help from the British and Irish Governments to shake off paramilitarism.

"We need a plan. We need a plan from where we have never had it before. The British Government needs to negotiate with us," he said.

"They need to light the floodlights, to open the gates and have the arrows pointing for us."

Earlier, he told BBC Radio Ulster's Inside Politics programme that loyalist paramilitaries would respond positively if the IRA went out of business and decommissions all its weapons.

He said his party was never fixated on weapons, "but on the will of those prepared to use them".

The political institutions in Northern Ireland were suspended in October 2002 amid allegations of IRA intelligence gathering at the Northern Ireland Office.

Prime Minister Tony Blair and Mr Ahern claimed at the conclusion of the Leeds Castle talks last month that the thorny issues of IRA disarmament and future paramilitary activity appeared to be resolved.

However, the two governments were unable to get the Northern Ireland Assembly parties to sign up to a deal over power-sharing after unionists and nationalists clashed over future devolved institutions.


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