Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

`One More Bomb, and It's Over,' Ulster Loyalists Say Ira Attack Pushes Cease-Fire to Brink of Collapse

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

`One More Bomb, and It's Over,' Ulster Loyalists Say Ira Attack Pushes Cease-Fire to Brink of Collapse

Article excerpt

In this dirty old town, they call him King Rat. And up until loyalist paramilitary groups called a cease-fire Oct. 14, 1994, he was considered one of the most dangerous men in Northern Ireland.

Now that the Irish Republican Army has called off its cease-fire, King Rat may become as dangerous as he was before. And as a result, he is in danger himself, near the top of the IRA's hit list.

For months, King Rat, the militant head of the Ulster Volunteer Force, had predicted that the IRA would eventually forsake political negotiations for an attack like the deadly bombing in London Feb. 9. And now loyalist paramilitary members and the politicians who represent them say that, if the IRA launches any more attacks, Protestant extremists will end their cease-fire, too.

As the British and Irish governments desperately try to breathe life back into the peace process, this is a nightmare scenario. If loyalists resume their campaign, Northern Ireland will be plunged back to its darkest days.

The IRA bombing sorely tested loyalist restraint. On the night of Feb. 9, a group of loyalists drinking in a pub on West Belfast's Shankill Road became enraged as they watched on television the scenes of carnage at Canary Wharf, where two people were killed and dozens of others were injured in the IRA blast. A gang spilled into the street and tried to hijack a car.

"They were going to shoot a taig," said a loyalist source, using the derogatory term for a Roman Catholic.

According to loyalist sources who witnessed the confrontation, the driver, a disabled man, refused to give up his car. One loyalist was so angry that he fired a shot into the disabled man's house. Area residents summoned loyalist leaders to restore order. Those leaders, among them Gusty Spence, the elder statesman of loyalism who brokered and announced the cease-fire, cooled things down and took the gun away.

Eddie Kinner, a former Ulster Volunteer Force member and one of those trying to keep the lid on, is not optimistic.

"One more bomb, and it's over," he said shortly after meeting with a group of Ulster Volunteers. "They just told me, `If it works for the IRA, it can work for us. …

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