Ervine says it is highly unlikely UVF will attack targets in the Republic


THE danger of attacks by the Ulster Volunteer Force on targets in the Republic has receded, according to a senior member of the Progressive Unionist Party. The party knows UVF thinking. Two weeks ago, a car smeared with explosive traces was left at Dublin airport by a UVF grouping.

However, Mr David Ervine of the PUP said he believed it "highly unlikely" there would be similar incidents in the future and he would be "rather shocked" if there were.

Meanwhile, it emerged yesterday that devising a means to ensure the North's all party talks are not stalled by the weapons decommissioning issue will be central to Wednesday's meeting in London, between the Tanaiste and the Northern Secretary.

Mr Spring and Sir Patrick Mayhew will meet under the auspices of the Anglo Irish Intergovernmental Conference and will discuss economic and political issues. The details of the opening session of the all party talks, due on June 10th, will be the key subject on the agenda, however.

Both governments are seeking to assure Sinn Fein that the talks due to begin on June 10th will not just be about the decommissioning of paramilitary weapons, but will be genuine political talks on the future of Northern Ireland. According to Government sources, the role, if any, of former US senator Mr George Mitchell in the talks process will be discussed at Wednesday's meeting.

In Belfast, Mr Ervine said he understood the UVF was "not particularly enamoured of the timing of the British government in relation to giving concessions to Sinn Fein in releasing prisoners and what have you, while their prisoners get nothing, but they can hardly blame the Dublin Government for that".

He understood there had been an "atmospheric change" for the better in relations between the UVF and the Government.

Commenting on a report in the Belfast based Sunday Life newspaper that the Combined Loyalist Military Command had ceased to function, Mr Ervine said "That's not a grouping that meets every other day anyway."

However, other loyalist sources', said the Ulster Defence Association had withdrawn from the CLMC until such time as it was satisfied that "other groupings within it were not going to act "one a unilateral basis".

The UDA move had come as a direct result of the car incident at Dublin Airport. Sources close to the UDA said this action by a "maverick" element in the UVF, had put the whole loyalist ceasefire in danger.

However, the disagreement in the CLMC was not anything "for the general public to worry about" as the UDA's temporary withdrawal was "very much a pro-peace move". The UDA ceasefire was "solid and will remain so UDA source insisted.

Meanwhile, sources close to the peace process said a restoration of the IRA ceasefire was unlikely in the immediate future because the British government was "playing games".

The appointment of Mr Mitchell to chair Strand Two of the all party talks would "give a lot of confidence" to republicans, sources said, but London was reluctant to choose Mr Mitchell. For their part, republicans would feel confident Mr Mitchell had the backing of the US government and "wouldn't be pushed around".

There was "no real pressure" on the republicans from the US government as Washington "understood the difficulties". As things stood, there was still a clear possibility that the unionist parties could combine to wreck the talks within a week.

The fact that the Irish Times article by the British Prime Minister, Mr John Major, failed to mention the Joint Framework Document and that it had also hinted at an internal solution in Northern Ireland was "not helpful" to the prospects of a ceasefire.