15 October 2005

'Pressure' for UVF to follow IRA


David Ervine's party is linked to the UVF and Red Hand Commando

The Progressive Unionist Party is holding its annual conference amid speculation that it is engaged in a debate about its future.

Unusually, the party is refusing to allow journalists to attend.

It is thought the party is attempting to persuade the UVF to follow the IRA's move to follow a purely political path.

The party, led by David Ervine, has refused to comment on speculation it could end its links with the UVF if it fails to leave violence behind.

The PUP is also linked to Red Hand Commando.

In July, Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain withheld the party's assembly allowances for another year.

The decision followed the latest report from ceasefire watchdog, the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC).

In September, the IMC blamed the UVF for five murders and 15 attempted murders as part of its feud with the LVF.

Mediation attempts

A special report said the LVF carried out two murder bids, but their violence was mainly a response to UVF attacks.

Its report on the loyalist feud led NI Secretary Peter Hain to declare the UVF ceasefire had broken down.

The IMC said it had noted statements by the Progressive Unionist Party indicating that they could not stop the feud, but said the party could not have it both ways.

They must disassociate themselves from the UVF or accept the consequences, it said.

Meanwhile, a Presbyterian minister, who has been talking to the leaders of the UVF and the LVF, said he was hopeful of a breakthrough in efforts to end the feud.

The Reverend Mervyn Gibson, who sits on the Loyalist Commission, told the BBC's Inside Politics programme on Saturday that attempts to mediate were "still continuing".

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