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24 April 1997 Edition

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Phantom Loyalist ceasefire

By Eoin O'Broin

Official Unionist Party security spokesperson, Ken Maginnis told journalists last week that the loyalist ceasefire is still intact, and warned that a strong Sinn Féin turnout in the forthcoming election could place that ceasefire in jeopardy.

Maginnis said; ``The reality is that those within the leadership of the loyalist organisations have indicated that they will not initiate ever again a return to violence''.

Maginnis's remarks come during a period of rising loyalist violence. During the last 16 months 44 churches and 71 schools have been attacked across the Six Counties. Most of these were Catholic. Two Catholics have been murdered by loyalist death squads, Lurgan taxi driver Michael McGoldrick last July, and father of ten John Slane this March. Two other Catholics have been seriously wounded in gun attacks, one in Coleraine and the other in Bawnmore.

Loyalists have also carried out a concerted campaign against Sinn Fein members and premises with two car bombs and three attacks on Sinn Fein offices in the last four months.

It also came to light earlier this week that a dissident loyalist group calling itself the Loyalist Volunteer Force was behind a number of attacks on Protestant churches and businesses in an attempt to stir up sectarianism within their own community. The burning of Mountpottinger Baptist Tabernacle in East Belfast two weeks ago, the attack on a Newry post office on 2 April and an arson attack on a haulage firm in Portadown last week are all suspected to be the work of the LVF.

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