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Britain to Appoint Violence Monitor for Northern Ireland

Europe: Move is aimed at bolstering peace process in the province. Catholics decry what they call a return to blaming republicans.

September 19, 2002|From Associated Press

LONDON — Britain announced Wednesday that it would appoint a respected expert to monitor violence in Northern Ireland, a move backed by the province's Protestants but opposed by its Roman Catholics.

Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid confirmed the move after a meeting between British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Gerry Adams, leader of Sinn Fein, the political arm of the Irish Republican Army.

Many Protestants are demanding Sinn Fein's ouster from the joint Catholic-Protestant government in Northern Ireland because of mounting allegations that the IRA remains involved in violence. Saturday, the Protestant leader of the coalition, First Minister David Trimble, will face a difficult meeting of his Ulster Unionist Party that is being convened to debate the issue.

Adams said Britain appeared to be "returning to the old game of bolstering unionists and pointing the finger of blame at republicans."

But Reid said that appointing a violence monitor would do much more than shore up Trimble's position. The expert's findings, he said, would help restore confidence in a peace process being assailed by all of Northern Ireland's secret armed organizations.

Reid said the expert, to be appointed within the next few weeks, "will help to create a greater sense of openness and reinforce the transition to a normal democratic society." He said the person picked must be a respected expert in paramilitary violence.

The threats from both extremes in Northern Ireland society were evident Wednesday.

British soldiers dismantled two booby-trapped bombs found in a car after police arrested two suspected IRA dissidents near Northern Ireland's border with the Irish Republic.

Also Wednesday, leaders of two outlawed anti-Catholic groups met in Protestant East Belfast to discuss a feud between senior members over the proceeds from drug trafficking in the area. This month, the feud between the Ulster Defense Assn. and the Loyalist Volunteer Force has left one LVF man dead and a senior UDA leader wounded.

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