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Last Updated: Friday, 15 October, 2004, 07:08 GMT 08:08 UK
DUP 'may talk' to loyalists
Peter Robinson
Peter Robinson made the comments to the BBC
The deputy leader of the Democratic Unionist Party has not ruled out the possibility of his party talking to loyalist paramilitaries.

Peter Robinson said if he met loyalists he would urge them to end their paramilitary and criminal activity and get rid of their weapons.

He was speaking on the BBC's Hearts and Minds programme on Thursday.

During the programme, politicians were urged by a loyalist leader, Winston Rea, to speak to those with paramilitary and political influence in his community.

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Mr Rea, who helped bring about the 1994 loyalist ceasefire said: "I feel that those politicians (in the DUP), in particular, should talk direct to the loyalists and help the loyalists, and especially help get them out of the jungle.

"Because out of the jungle they will come, but they need help."

Mr Robinson told the programme: "We're discussing it at the present time, so clearly we haven't ruled it out, and how best it can be done is something that we'll have to consider.

"But I think we have a responsibility to use our influence... how best we use that influence is something that the days and weeks will perhaps reveal."

Winston Rea: Challenged DUP to talk to loyalists
Winston Rea: Challenged DUP to talk to loyalists
Mr Robinson said there had to be a "complete end" to all paramilitary and criminal activity as well as a "handing over of all illegal weapons".

He said his party needed to exert an "influence" within the process and that would have to be considered in the short term.

"I think it's also worth indicating that within the process we've been strenuously pressing the government for what we describe as 'confidence building measures' for the loyalist and unionist community," he said.

"There is massive deprivation in unionist areas ignored by the government."

Thorny issues

At the weekend, Progressive Unionist Party leader David Ervine said he believed there would be "serious movement" from the IRA in the next few months.

But, he said, republicans needed to "publicly reassure" loyalists that the "war was 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.

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

Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Bertie 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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DUP deputy leader Peter Robinson said:
"I think we have a responsibility to use our influence"



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