PEACE PLEDGE; Catholic Churchmen in Summit with Loyalists

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Byline: DAVID YOUNG

SENIOR loyalists and Catholic clerics pledged yesterday to work together to prevent a return to full-scale violence in Northern Ireland.

The joint commitment followed a groundbreaking meeting in Armagh between the head of the Catholic Church in Ireland and representatives of the UDA-linked Ulster Political Research Group.

Cardinal Sean Brady said he had been reassured by a pledge from the loyalist delegation there would be no retaliation following last month's murders by dissident republicans.

After the meeting at his official residence at Armagh Cathedral, Cardinal Brady said: "We conveyed to the UPRG the fear that exists within the Catholic community about the possibility of violent activity by loyalist groups.

"We are greatly encouraged by the assurance given by the UPRG today that there is no going back to the past, that together we are building a new future."

While UDA decommissioning had been expected to be on the agenda during the twohour meeting, UPRG spokesman Frankie Gallagher said the issue was not raised.

He said the matter of the UDA's continued possession of guns was a matter for that organisation to address itself. He added: "We acknowledge the concerns expressed by Cardinal Brady of the fears that exist within the Catholic community as many of the Protestant community share similar fears from extreme nationalist elements.

"These elements want to take us back to a bloody past where many lives were lost. …