THE threat of renewed violence now looms over Northern Ireland
as well as mainland Britain, after a warning by loyalist terrorists
that they are ready to match the Irish Republican Army "blow for
The so-called Combined Loyalist Military Command, in its first
statement since the IRA cease-fire ended a month ago, said Tuesday
that IRA attacks cannot continue "without a telling response."
The warning by pro-British loyalists, who matched the IRA
cease-fire in the fall of 1994 with a truce of their own, comes
after days of heightened tension in the province.
"The gunmen are very jumpy," says David Irvine, spokesman for
the Progressive Unionist Party, which has close links with loyalist
paramilitaries. "Their wives are being followed to schools and such
by IRA men, and I think it's all part of the creation of an
atmosphere by the IRA in which the unknown is a form of terrorism
Gary McMichael, leader of the Ulster Democratic Party, which is
also close to loyalist outlaws, said the warning showed that "the
dangerous road which the IRA is traveling will inevitably lead to
confrontation between the two communities. But it's also saying
that now is the time to draw back from the brink."
Since the end of the IRA cease-fire last month, these two fringe
parties have astonished local opinion with their conciliatory tone.
Far from calling for violent revenge, they have urged peaceful
adherence to negotiation.
"We haven't carried our argument very well," concedes Mr.
Irvine. "We're inclined to be viewed as an orange-shirted Fascisti.
But that isn't the case. There's substantial diversity within
unionism - there's right, left, and center, those who want to move
to the future, and those who can't countenance change."
His latter comment refers to the Rev. Ian Paisley, the
charismatic, fire-breathing Protestant politician who for many has
come to symbolize the unionists of Northern Ireland.
But the spectrum of unionist belief, held by a clear majority of
Northern Ireland's people, is much broader than Mr. Paisley's high
profile might suggest. His hard-line Democratic Unionist Party
comes second in elections to the biggest and oldest unionist party,
the secular Ulster Unionists, who hold nine seats in the British
Across the spectrum, unionism is less a philosophy than a
statement of British identity. Those who openly profess it are
overwhelmingly Protestant. But a sizable minority of the province's
Catholics - 1 in 3, in a 1995 study by Queen's University in
Belfast - also favor maintaining the union with Britain, albeit