Mayhew, loyalists meet on prisoner issue

 

THE leaders of the loyalist fringe parties, the UDP and the PUP, had what was described as an emergency meeting yesterday with the Northern Secretary, Sir Patrick Mayhew, as tension reportedly increased among loyalist paramilitary prisoners.

No statement was issued after meeting at Stormont, and it was expected that the party leaders would report the outcome of their talks directly to the prisioners.

UDA and UVF inmates at the Maze Prison are said to have been angered by the comments made by Sir Patrick in Dublin on Friday, to the effect that loyalist prisoners should not expect special treatment simply because a loyalist ceasefire remained in place.

His words were seen as a blunt rejection of the political pressure which has increased recently for early release of some loyalist prisoners. The Conservative MP, Mr Andrew Hunter, last week suggested that there should he some concessions to the loyalist prisoners because the loyalist ceasefire was being maintained.

At the time of the loyalist ceasefire declaration in 1994 it was acknowledged that the attitude of the prisoners had been influential in bringing about the decision.

As the loyalist ceasefire came under strain in recent months, the prisoners were consulted by their political representatives and eventually endorsed a continuation of the ceasefire, although sections of them intimated that they had lost confidence in the peace process.

Meanwhile, the inter party talks resumed at Castle Buildings, Stormont, yesterday under the chairmanship of former Senator George Mitchell. The opening plenary session is now engaged in hearing a series of submissions by the various parties on decommissioning and this process will continue today.