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CNN Today

Northern Ireland Cease-Fire Threatened by Paramilitary Groups

Aired June 22, 2000 - 2:33 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: In Northern Ireland, a struggle for dominance between two paramilitary groups threatens the current cease- fire, but the two groups are on the same side of the dispute between Protestants and Catholics.

CNN's Nic Robertson reports from Belfast.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Flags of different Protestant paramilitaries fly side by side. The groups are on the same side of the religious divide, but are poles apart, and are now competing for dominance over the community they represent. One group, the Ulster Freedom Fighters, or UFF, are vowing to start shooting Catholics caught attacking Protestant homes, effectively ending a 1994 cease-fire, a symptom experts here say of the internal power struggle, not attacks by Catholics.

HENRY MACDONALD, AUTHOR, PROTESTANT PARAMILITARY: I think it's all about, we are the primary defenders of loyalist Protestant people in the Shankhold (ph) area in North Belfast rather than the UVF. It's about internal politics rather than an external threat.

ROBERTSON: The threat coincides with increasing tension between Protestants and Catholics, normal at this time of year when Protestant marches polarize the two communities. The most contentious march, called Drumcree, is in a few weeks, and in the past has been a catalyst for province-wide trouble.

JOHN WHITE, ULSTER DEMOCRATIC PARTY: There is a lot of pressure coming onto the UFF to play a role in Drumcree because the people at Drumcree feel that the government have let them down. They feel that they have been very, very moderate.

ROBERTSON: The paramilitaries now vying for power have in recent years played a calming role at tense moments. The split now threatens that.

MACDONALD: The big danger with that, street demonstrations that lead to violence, that lead to people being killed. With these people, it's not's only the security situation, but also the political situation. You create a crisis in the Pershing (ph) Cabinet.

ROBERTSON (on camera): The British government hopes to curb violence by its threat to stop paramilitary prisoner releases. Key terrorists are still locked up, and the government's hope is that their comrades on the outside will put their interests ahead of their own immediate ambitions.

Nic Robertson, CNN, Belfast, Northern Ireland.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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