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Thursday, August 26, 1999 Published at 13:11 GMT 14:11 UK

UK: Northern Ireland

IRA truce holds - Mowlam

Northern Ireland Secretary Mo Mowlam has said the IRA ceasefire has not broken down and the early release of republican prisoners can continue.

The Search for Peace

More related to this story
Link to Republican splinter threat
Link to Sinn Fein
Link to Mo Mowlam
She revealed her decision after talks with senior security advisers in Belfast and members of the Irish Government.

But the announcement has angered unionists.

Dr Mowlam admitted the IRA had been active recently and she had come close to judging that its ceasefire was "no longer for real". But in the end she decided to let it off with a warning.

She added: "I have left Sinn Fein in no doubt that all violence, for what ever reason it is perpetrated, is unacceptable and have called on them to use their influence to ensure there is no repetition."

Dr Mowlam had already made it clear that Sinn Fein would be involved in the review of the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, due to start on 6 September.

Listen to Mo Mowlam's statement in full
Unionists had urged her to halt the early release of IRA prisoners, but Sinn Fein hinted it could pull out of the process if republicans are not freed from the Maze prison.

IRA blamed for murder

The BBC's Tom Coulter: "Dr Mowlam admitted the IRA had been involved in murder"
Pressure on Dr Mowlam to act intensified after the RUC Chief Constable, Sir Ronnie Flanagan, claimed publicly for the first time on Wednesday that the IRA murdered a Belfast taxi driver.

Sir Ronnie also said that loyalist and republican paramilitaries were carrying out "heinous crimes almost on a nightly basis".

[ image:  ]
But while he said he believed that the IRA had murdered Charles Bennett, he said it was not his duty but the government's to decide whether this amounted to a ceasefire breach.

Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble has described Dr Mowlam's statement that the IRA ceasefire is intact as "deeply disappointing".

[ image: Charles Bennett: IRA has been blamed for his murder]
Charles Bennett: IRA has been blamed for his murder
Mr Trimble, who is also Northern Ireland's First Minister, said events such as the murder of Belfast taxi driver Charles Bennett left no doubt about the republican ceasefire.

He continued: "These must be regarded as breaches of a ceasefire. That is where I find the secretary of state's statement deeply disappointing and deeply flawed."

Sinn Fein Chairman Mitchel McLaughlin said Dr Mowlam's statement was the only decision available.

Sinn Fein Party Chairman Mitchell McLaughlin: "We must continue our efforts"
He said: "There is a considerable amount of violence and it emanates from right across this very sick society.

"There is no acceptable violence and we have to work to a position where it stops and where people are not injured."

A former Northern Ireland minister and Tory Party chairman has also criticised the decision.

Michael Ancram described the decision as "incredible, illogical and a fudge".

Conservative Party Chairman Michael Ancram: "She had a difficult decision to make"
Charles Bennett, 22, was found dead off the nationalist Falls Road area of west Belfast on 30 July.

He was from the New Lodge area of north Belfast and had been shot in the head. He had been missing for five days.

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