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Tuesday, 22 August, 2000, 18:11 GMT 19:11 UK
Security review after loyalist deaths
Soldiers back on Belfast streets
A familiar sight: Soldiers back on Belfast streets
The Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson has met security chiefs to discuss the escalating violence between the province's two main loyalist paramilitary groups.

It is understood attempts are being made to get representatives of the rival loyalist organisations to negotiate some form of truce.

It comes after two men were shot dead on Monday in an escalation of a dispute between the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) and the Ulster Defence Association/Ulster Freedom Fighters (UDA/UFF).

The violence has led to the deaths of two men and brought soldiers back onto the streets of Belfast.

Who are the UDA/UFF?
The Ulster Defence Association and Ulster Freedom Fighters make up the largest loyalist paramilitary group in NI. It called a ceasefire in 1994, but recently threatened to break it by shooting Catholics. It is linked politically to the Ulster Democratic Party.

Although Monday night was a mainly trouble-free, there was a tense atmosphere on the streets of Belfast. In County Antrim shots were fired at the homes of three loyalist politicians and a number of cars were damaged.

A leading loyalist politician with links to one of the loyalist paramilitary groups called for mediation amid fears of reprisal following the murders.

Weekend of tension

The two dead men, Jackie Coulter, a prominent member of the UDA, and Robbie Mahood, were shot on the Crumlin Road in north Belfast on Monday afternoon.

Rev Roy Magee:
Rev Roy Magee: "I would be glad to help"
Afterwards crowds attacked the Shankill Road offices of the Progressive Unionist Party (PUP), which has links with the UVF, and a taxi in separate incidents.

The police arrested a number of people and seized arms.

The shootings followed a weekend of tension between the rival loyalist paramilitaries on the Shankill Road.

Speaking to BBC Radio Ulster, Billy Hutchinson of the PUP said there must be mediation to end the loyalist feud.

The PUP's Billy Hutchinson:
Billy Hutchinson: "People are going to have to talk some time"
But he said it would be difficult to find a mediator.

He said: "I don't think that people can continue to do this. Sooner or later, no matter how many people die, people will talk.

His comments were echoed by the leader of the Ulster Democratic Party which has links to the UDA.

Gary McMichael said: "This infighting is tearing loyalism apart. Those involved should take stock of the implications of continued internecine violence and realise that they are on a road to nowhere.

"Ultimately the loyalist community are the losers in this feud."

Call for sanity

Presbyterian minister the Reverend Roy Magee said he would be willing to help but the violence must be stopped before mediation could succeed.

He has acted as a mediator with loyalist paramilitaries in the past and helped to broker the 1994 loyalist ceasefire.

Who are the UVF?
The Ulster Volunteer Force is a loyalist paramilitary group which became prominent in the late 1960s at the beginning of the present Troubles. It called a ceasefire in 1994 and is linked politically to the Progressive Unionist Party.

"Sanity needs to be brought to bear on the prevailing situation. All the leaders of the loyalist organisations need to call a halt forthwith to whatever campaign is taking place and they need to leave space for each other.

"I think in conditions like that some form of mediation and contact could take place," he said.

Baroness May Blood, who works as a community worker on the Shankill Road, said tensions in the area were extremely high.

"I have never seen the Shankill like that before even in its lowest days and after the Shankill bombing. The community was together then, but now it is fragmenting itself," she said.

Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson said the latest outbreak of violence had "nothing to do with politics" but was a result of "squalid murderous gang warfare".

On Monday Mr Mandelson decided to step up security by resuming army patrols in some parts of Belfast and increasing the police presence on the streets.

But the Conservative Party has called on him to take action to revoke the parole licences of any loyalist prisoners released early under the Good Friday Agreement peace accord who have been seen to be involved in the violence.

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See also:

22 Aug 00 | Northern Ireland
Mandelson reviews NI security
22 Aug 00 | Northern Ireland
The minister who offers to mediate
22 Aug 00 | Northern Ireland
In pictures: Belfast's tense streets
22 Aug 00 | Northern Ireland
Night of uneasy calm in Belfast
21 Aug 00 | Northern Ireland
Troops back on Belfast streets
21 Aug 00 | Northern Ireland
Man killed in 'loyalist feud' shooting
22 Aug 00 | Northern Ireland
Loyalist feud could threaten peace
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