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12 July 2001 Edition

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Loyalists abandon the Agreement

BY LAURA FRIEL

Northern nationalists braced themselves, fearing further sectarian attacks, as loyalists formally withdrew their support for the Good Friday Agreement.

The largest armed loyalist grouping, the UDA/UFF, announced its decision saying that its membership was strongly opposed to an Agreement that ``the vast majority of the loyalist community have grown to despise.''

``We find it intolerable that Sinn Féin have gained concession after concession yet there is still a growing erosion of our culture and our heritage. This has to stop. We cannot allow this to go any further. There can be no more concessions to nationalism while the fabric of our loyalist community is torn asunder.''

The UDA went on to claim that its ceasefire was intact. Typically, the statement failed to acknowledge that tensions within loyalism culminating in a bloody feud between the UDA and UVF, rather than pressure from outside, has wrought the most damage within loyalist communities.

John White of the Ulster Democratic Party, linked to the UDA, described himself as disappointed but claimed that dissatisfaction with the Agreement had been growing for some time. There would be ``a lot to do'' before loyalists could restore their commitment to the deal, said White.

Meanwhile, the Progressive Unionist Party, linked to the UVF, formally withdrew their support for the Good Friday Agreement. The decision followed a meeting of the party's executive that endorsed David Ervine's recommendation to pull out of the process.

Ervine said his community had become increasingly disillusioned with the political process and complained of a ``continuing spiral where the republican shopping list gets even longer''.

The PUP spokesperson said that his party was only withdrawing from the current phase of the political process and was not pulling out of the entire peace process.

Sinn Féin Assembly member Conor Murphy dismissed PUP claims they had pulled out because his party had refused to define the causes of the conflict. ``Sinn Féin made our position clear on this issue time and time again in the negotiations leading up to the signing of the Good Friday Agreement which of course included Mr Ervine,'' said Murphy.

Contradicting the UDA's claim that their ceasefire remained intact, Sinn Fein's chief whip Alex Maskey said it had been Sinn Féin's view for some time that the UDA/UFF cessation had ended. Maskey said the UDA was responsible for the current sectarian attacks against Catholic homes across the North.
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