11/03/2009

Loyalists 'Won't Be Goaded By Killings'

Loyalist paramilitary groups won't be 'hitting back' after the past few days republican terrorist activity left two soldiers and a PSNI officer dead.

The voices normally recognised as speaking for the outlawed Ulser Volunteer Force (UVF) and Ulster Defence Association (UDA) will not get drawn into a violent response to the dissident republican attacks.

Frankie Gallagher of the Ulster Political Research Group (UPRG), which has links to the UDA, said there was "palpable anger" in some loyalist areas - but told the Belfast News Letter that the situation had been helped by the stance taken by Sinn Fein.

"Irish republicans and unionists have been speaking with one voice and this has gone a long way to reassuring people that democracy is the right way ahead," he said.

"We won't be drawn into some sort of tit-for-tat situation – we must stand united against these people."
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Meanwhile, Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) spokesman for the south Antrim area, Ken Wilkinson, said he hoped the recent trouble would not prompt a reprisal by any section of loyalism.

"In fact, I think we have come too far for this to happen. Loyalism has come a long way.

"But I know it's hard for some loyalists to sit back and do nothing. I would just advise them and ask them not to."

Meanwhile, Beyond Conflict spokesman Tommy Kirkham, a former member of the UPRG, said he believed republican commitment to the peace process should be strong enough to see them through this.

"But the concern in loyalism is that if the dissidents do not get the reaction they want from the shooting dead of two soldiers and a policeman - will they try to take it a step further?

"If they do not get the reaction they want from killing two soldiers and a policeman - will they go for a senior loyalist?"

(BMcC)

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