Saturday, November 05, 2005 

Hunting carries on the same as before.

The first official day of the new season of fox hunting, and the BBC reports that not a single registered hunt has disbanded since the ban was brought in on hunting foxes with hounds. It's just a slight contrast to the claims of those in the countryside who said that thousands of jobs would be lost, that dogs would be put down and that a way of life centuries old would disappear.

The bill though was and continues to be a proverbial dog's dinner. The law states that two dogs can be used to sniff out a scent and to flush out a fox, but the fox must then be shot, rather than ripped apart by a pack of hounds as before. I'm sure the fox appreciates the difference. In another twist, the law does not ban hunting with predatory birds, which has resulted in nearly half purchasing golden eagles, eagle owls or similar birds and using them to attack the fox instead. Not a single case has been brought against a huntsman in the public domain, and the League against Cruel Sports is now pursuing a private prosecution against a huntsman in Devon, fed up with the police not taking action that the law has been broken, despite video and witness evidence.

The law was criticised by the likes of the Daily Torygraph as been part of a class war against the gentry in the countryside. It wasn't, but it was a nice smear and I personally would be happy in starting a class war against the likes of those who find terrifying wild animals before slaughtering them a nice Saturday afternoon hobby. The government had banning fox hunting as a manifesto pledge, something which Tony Blair must curse. He must be equally pleased that the law is so useless and loopholes are being found and abused with glee. If Labour doesn't want to become known as passing a law even dafter and less thought out than the Dangerous Dogs Act, it will amend the act and make sure that such barbarity is completely outlawed. It should not be a part of 21st century Britain, tradition or not.

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Friday, November 04, 2005 

Government should have been defeated on glorifying terror - blame dozy, worthless MPs and Make Poverty History.

Yep, turns out that the government could have been easily defeated on the Terrorism Bill on Wednesday, when the government survived the poll on glorification of terrorism by one vote. They were forced to withdraw the vote on 90 days detention when they released they would be defeated.

Firstly we have Vince Cable, the Lib Dem treasury spokesman, who was held up by the Make Poverty History campaign who were lobbying parliament on the one day that they would have better off at home, and so he missed the vote. Thanks MPH!

Next up we have Brian Binley, a hard right Tory representing sunny Northampton South, who forgot about the vote and turned his mobile phone off. Trebles all round for those in his constituency!

And last, but by no means least, we have gorgeous George Galloway, leftwing hellraiser and scourge of Republican senators everywhere, who was in Cork where he was involved in.... yes, you've guessed it, An Evening with George Galloway! Nothing quite like a bit of self-promotion and a money raiser, after all, looks like he's going to need it for flying backwards and forwards to America.

I don't know about you, but it sure makes me proud of our representatives of the people.

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Ginger ninja strikes back!

As I hoped, both the Mirror and *shock* the Times had some incredibly amusing reports on Rebekah Wade giving her husband a good slap.

With a rather more sober account, and one which seems to differ from all the others, the Sun relegated its own house story to the 5th page.

(Sorry about the crappy quality photos, I took them quickly in a WHSmiths.)

The story seems to claim that Kemp was surprised by the police, while the others differ on whether it was him or a neighbour who rang them. Police would have interviewed her, despite the claims that they did not, as they would have wanted to hear all sides of the story regardless. The cut to his lip which had been sustained during filming - what filming was this? He's currently not shooting EastEnders. It seems rather strange no one who saw them during the evening beforehand has mentioned that he had a cut lip. Also rather intriguing is that she is referred to throughout as "Ms" Wade. If she's married surely she should be Mrs? The ginger ninja has rather a lot of explaining to do.

Also being talked about are various conspiracy theories that Max Clifford was involved in getting the other Mitchell brother assaulted by his ex, part of an attempt to push the highly embarrassing Wade story down the news agenda. Indeed, it was the story which the Sun led on, with just a small banner at the foot of the front page mentioning that Wade decked her husband.

Wade has been a pretty piss-poor Sun editor. Circulation is down (although to be fair it is on all the red-top tabloids), she's been out-scooped by the News of the Screws and Mirror, and has if anything made the paper backwards rather than forwards looking. She no longer gives any press briefings or statements in person about the paper because she cocked it up so badly at a select committee hearing when she admitted that the paper had paid police officers for information - something which mightily enraged Mr Murdoch. Let's crack one open for the downfall of an unpleasant hypocritical woman.

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Thursday, November 03, 2005 

Israel breaches international law, inflicts collective punishment on Palestinians. No one says anything.

It's been whispered for a while that Israel has been tormenting the population of Gaza since the evacuation of the Jewish settlers with so-called "sonic bombs": flying a super-sonic aircraft over the Strip at low-altitude, breaking the sound barrier, resulting in a terrifying noise which causes shock waves, breaks windows and making cracks in buildings. It seems that since the IDF accidentally produced one of these bombs too far inside Israel, causing panic in Tel Aviv, that the matter has come to the attention of many more people.

The Palestinian health ministry says the sonic booms have led to miscarriages and heart problems. The United Nations has demanded an end to the tactic, saying it causes panic attacks in children. The shock waves have also damaged buildings by cracking walls and smashing thousands of windows.

"I have never heard such a loud explosion. I thought it was right over the top of my building," said the owner, Tareq Dayyeh. "Sometimes you hear the rockets the Israelis fire but this was different. I felt like I was in the middle of a bomb. When I ran out the door I thought I might find the rest of the street was gone."

Over the past week, Israeli jets created 28 sonic booms by flying at high speed and low altitude over the Gaza Strip, sometimes as little as an hour apart through the night. During five days in late September, the air force caused 29 sonic booms.

A senior Israeli army intelligence source, who the military would not permit to be named, said the tactic is intended to break civilian support for armed Palestinian groups. "We are trying to send a message in a way that doesn't harm people. We want to encourage the Palestinian public to do something about the terror situation," he said. "What are the alternatives? We are not like the terrorists who shoot civilians. We are cautious. We make sure nobody is really hurt."

Yesterday, two medical human rights groups asked the Tel Aviv high court to outlaw the use of sound bombs on the grounds it amounts to illegal collective punishment and is detrimental to health.

"The stress is phenomenal," said Eyad El Sarraj, a psychologist and director of Gaza Community Mental Health Programme, one of the groups filing the petition. "The Israelis do it after midnight and then every one or two hours. You try to go to sleep and then there's another one. When it happens night after night you become exhausted. You get a heightened sense of alert, waiting continuously for it to happen. People suffer hypertension, fatigue, sleeplessness.

"For children, the loud noise means danger. Adults may know it's only a sound but small children feel threatened. They are crying and clinging to their parents. Afterwards they are dazed and fearful, waiting for something to happen."

The UN Palestinian refugee agency said a majority of the patients seen at its clinics as a result of the sonic booms were under 16 and suffering from symptoms such as anxiety attacks, bedwetting, muscle spasms, temporary loss of hearing and breathing difficulties.

Although the Israelis say the shockwaves do not cause casualties, doctors at Gaza's Shifa hospital said the overflights had forced women to miscarry. The number of miscarriages had increased by 40%, according to Jumaa Saqqa, a surgeon and hospital spokesman. "There were no other symptoms and the rise happened after the sonic booms. We can see no other explanation. The number of patients admitted to the cardiac care unit doubled. Some of them proved to have suffered serious harm."

Dr Saqqa said one overflight occurred while he was operating. The Palestinian health ministry estimates the sonic booms have caused at least 20 miscarriages.

The UN's Middle East envoy, Alvaro de Soto, wrote to the Israeli high command this week saying he was "deeply concerned at the impact on children, particularly infants, of the use of sonic booms".

Mr de Soto said he did not accept that the tactic was a legitimate response to Islamic Jihad and Hamas firing rockets into Israeli towns. "Sonic booms are an indiscriminate instrument, the use of which punishes the population collectively. We ask therefore that their use be stopped without delay," the letter said.

Compare the response to this to the admittedly much more inflammatory but rhetorical remarks of the Iranian president last week. While Israel called for Iran to be expelled from the UN and Blair rattled the sabre, Israel was actually breaking international law. That's forgetting the numerous UN resolutions which Israel is in breach of, and the ones which get vetoed by the United States.

If anything, this shows the depths which Israel continues to sink to. The Palestinian people refuse to be broken by their indiscriminate attacks, and they regarded the disengagement from Gaza as a victory for armed resistance. While it wasn't, and they are now paying the price for daring to openly celebrate it, sonic bombs are not going to make the residents of Gaza give up their support for the likes of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. It is more likely to entrench it further. Israel continues to demand the disarming of Hamas by the Palestinian Authority, despite knowing full well that any attempt by the PA to do so would lead to civil war, something which Israel would welcome with open arms. The sad thing is that after all the publicity surrounding the Gaza evacuation, Israel has continued to assassinate and make Palestinians lives a misery. They continue to emasculate the West Bank with the so-called security barrier, so that they can make that the new de-facto border when Sharon decides to impose his full "peace" plan. All this is going on under the noses of the international community, and they say nothing. They're more interested in damning old Iranian rhetoric than removing the main obstacle to peace in the Middle East and anger in Muslims worldwide.

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Sun editor smacks husband, released without charge.

There are some stories that on hearing about them you think that they're too good to be true. Probably the funniest thing to happen in the media world since Kimberly Quinn became known as the slut of the Spectator, Sun dominatrix Rebekah Wade was today arrested for presumably hitting her husband Ross Kemp (Grant Mitchell in EastEnders) and cutting his mouth.

Rebekah Wade, the editor of the Sun, was released from police custody at lunchtime today after being arrested for alleged assault on her husband, EastEnders actor Ross Kemp.

A spokeswoman for Scotland Yard confirmed that Ms Wade had been freed after questioning at a south London police station and no further action will be taken. "A woman who was arrested this morning has been released and no further action will be taken by police," she said.

According to police, Mr Kemp refused medical treatment for a cut mouth when the officers attended the couple's Battersea home at 4am today.

Wade and Kemp are understood to have started the evening at a cocktail party hosted by PR guru Matthew Freud and his wife, Rupert Murdoch's daughter Elisabeth. They then moved on to dinner with David Blunkett, who resigned as the work and pensions secretary yesterday.

Wade made a "low profile" return to the Sun's offices this afternoon, according to a well-placed source. Rupert Murdoch, the proprietor, has indicated to Sun staff that he is treating the issue lightly. It seems that Wade's position is secure for now, although the paper has been receiving emails from readers hoping they will "read the full story" in the Sun tomorrow.

One senior source said the paper was expecting to run a double-page spread on the story, which will include a statement from Ms Wade. Mr Murdoch and Les Hinton, the News International boss, plan to take Wade out to dinner tonight, possibly at One Aldwych, one of their favourite restaurants.

News of Ms Wade's arrest will prove particularly embarrassing for the Sun as Mr Murdoch is in London for tomorrow's BSkyB annual general meeting.

Ms Wade and Mr Kemp, who became a household name playing hard man Grant Mitchell on the BBC soap, were married in a ceremony in Las Vegas in 2002. She had been due to attend the Women of the Year lunch today at the Guildhall.

It's going to be very interesting to see what the Sun and Times publish tomorrow on this story (if anything, as they seem to often shy away from internal matters for some strange mystical reason) and Private Eye and the other tabloids especially are going to have a field day. Even more amusing is the friendship which Wade seems to share with David Blunkett, and how the page 3 models at the Sun seem to have curiously sympathetic views on the matter, as Bloggerheads has pointed out. I wonder if the model tomorrow will comment on how women are putting their best fist forward.

It's always nice to see a pathetic propagandist and all-round nasty figure get their just desserts, just as Jonathan Aitken, Jeffrey Archer and Piers Morgan have before her. It would all the more sweeter if Murdoch see fits to sack her.

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Wednesday, November 02, 2005 

Government's majority reduced to one over terror bill.

Looks like the backbenchers are finally awakening from their slumber. Here's to hoping the 90 days clause is defeated.

The government's majority was cut to just one today in a vote on an amendment to the terror bill.

Voting was 300 to 299 as the government narrowly fought off a rebel Labour amendment aiming to establish "intent" in the new offence of encouragement of terrorism. Cross-party opponents complained the government's current definition was too widely drawn.

The narrow margin makes it more likely the government will be defeated later on the most controversial clause in the bill, to extend detention of terror suspects without charge from two weeks to three months.

Mr Blair earlier warned MPs to "think very carefully" before opposing the bill, and reminded them that the 90-day pre-trial detention had the backing of the police.

The government had earlier pledged a rethink on the "glorification" clauses as ministers tried to head off a damaging revolt.

The Home Office minister, Hazel Blears, said she recognised "legitimate concerns" that a new offence of encouraging terrorism needed to be tightened up.

MPs have today began putting the terror bill through the detailed scrutiny of a committee stage.

In a sign of the bill's importance, MPs are debating it line by line in the Commons chamber. If passed in its current form, terror suspects could be jailed for 90 days without charge and a new offence created of glorification of terrorism.

Last week, the bill survived a mauling to be given a second reading by 472 votes to 94, a majority of 378. Sixteen Labour MPs rebelled to vote with the Liberal Democrats.

A row is expected over an amendment tabled by Labour backbenchers that would limit the 90-day detention period to 28 days. Charles Clarke, the home secretary, today said he would be "flexible" but insisted four weeks did not allow police enough time to charge terror suspects.

At prime minister's questions today, Tony Blair told MPs that a vote against the legislation would be a vote against the express advice of leading police officers.

The only reason the leading police officers need 90 days is that they do not have the specialist officers needed to decrypt hard drives and to follow up all their leads. This in an issue of training and funding, not an issue of suspects being locked up because of police and governmental incompetence and lack of planning.

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Private companies running young offenders institutes are fiefdoms.

This story will be buried by the Blunkett aftermath and vote on the terror bill, but this is a scandalous story which deserves much larger public knowledge.

A former Labour minister called for the contracts of two privately run child jails to be terminated yesterday after they refused access to a Home Office team investigating their use of physical restraint techniques on teenage inmates.

Sally Keeble, Labour MP for Northampton North, told the Commons that the unpublished report from the inquiry team, which included medical experts, recommended that more than 20 restraint techniques currently in use be scrapped. She said physical control was routinely used in Britain's four secure training centres, designed to hold the most troublesome 10- to 17-year-olds.

The highest use of restraint was at two centres run by Rebound, a subsidiary of GSL Limited, one at Rainsbrook, near Daventry, Northamptonshire, and the other at Medway in Kent. The official review of physical control techniques was triggered by the death of Gareth Myatt, 15, in Rainsbrook in April last year.

"I understand that these two secure training centres did not provide admission to the consultants employed by the Home Office to carry out the review of physical control in care," said Ms Keeble. "In these circumstances, the contract with the private company responsible should be terminated because they have not demonstrated that they are able to provide a regime that is either appropriate for the staff, or safe for the young people."

Ministers have modified some of the restraint techniques but decided to ban the use of only one of them - the "seated double embrace" which was involved in Gareth Myatt's death.

Contrary to the unpublished recommendations of the review team, ministers have allowed the continued use of a painful "karate chop to the nose" technique and a "thumb distraction" method.

Ms Keeble told a Westminster Hall debate yesterday that the "nose distraction" put staff at the risk of being bitten, and "thumb distraction" involved an adult hand restraining a child's thumb and had the potential to cause more injury than other techniques.

"How on earth do we, in the 21st century, manage to run a regime for young people that includes an equivalent of thumb screws?" she asked MPs.

"In at least one of the institutions, in place of the seated embrace a standing hold is used. But children are still being bent over - and it is bending that is so dangerous because this is what prevents breathing. During the course of my investigations I actually have had some of these holds demonstrated on me, and once shown, the risks are evident."

Official figures showed that restraint was used 3,289 times in 2003 and 1,228 in the first few months of 2004 in the four secure training centres.

There are 274 places in all the centres, and 322 "trainees" went through Medway in 2003 and 289 through Rainsbrook. The average age of those sentenced to detention and training orders is 14, and half of them are unconvicted teenagers on remand awaiting trial.

Fiona Mactaggart, the Home Office minister, denied there was a routine use of physical restraint in the centres and said that only a "tiny minority" of such incidents involved inflicting pain.

"We need to protect other trainees and the staff themselves in potentially violent incidents. We need to have ways that we can distract children who are behaving dangerously," she told Ms Keeble.

But she admitted that staff were increasingly using handcuffs as an alternative to the physical control techniques. Ms Mactaggart also confirmed that restraint was being used to ensure the compliance of the trainees and not just to defuse potentially violent situations.

The government is paying private companies to hold some of the most sensitive inmates in its care, and those companies are then refusing to let the public's representatives visit the prisons to ensure that children are not being harmed. Not only should their contracts be withdrawn immediately, the companies should be banned from running for government contracts in the future. We are not talking about children that have been convicted of anti-social behaviour or more heinous crimes, half of these are on remand and not been convicted. The whole story brings back echoes of the horror of Borstals, and unless the government acts to improve conditions and gain access to these prisons, they will be complicit in destruction of these children's future.

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Blunkett becomes Blair's sacrificial lamb.

David Blunkett's decision to resign today has been rather convenient for Blair. Blunkett has claimed that his decision to step down came as he travelled from Downing Street from a previous meeting with Blair to Portcullis House for a scheduled select committee meeting, despite Blair apparently asking him to stay at that meeting. He then returned to Downing Street and tendered his resignation.

For Blair though, this apparent course of events has been nowhere near as bad as it could have been. Firstly it meant he didn't have to go through a whole session of Prime Minister's Questions entirely dealing with Blunkett, and it also has took the story away from cabinet disagreements and from today's revelations that Blair appears to be agreeing with George Bush that economic growth is more important than the health of the planet. While he faced a reasonably effective Michael Howard, being attacked by someone who is no longer leader was never going to cause him much damage.

Blunkett probably made the right decision, benefits for Blair or not. He may have jumped before even worse allegations were uncovered. He is also now free to sort himself out. He has become the opposite of what he most likely originally thought of himself: a man who raised the red flag above Sheffield town hall, now more happy to be associated with the Spectator set and seen in high society places such as Annabel's. More happily for those of us who despise Max Clifford, he has promised to persue him and expose his lies. Whether this whole affair was Blunkett's fault or not is also uncertain. Devastated by the severance and way he was treated by Kimberley Quinn, he was brought back much too quickly by Blair, who misjudged his ability to cope with his personal crisis. There was however no way that he could he remain in the cabinet, if what Blair said in 1997 in the aftermath of the Tory sleaze years was applied consistently. He said that ministers had to "act within the letter and spirit" of the code of conduct. Blunkett clearly did not. I still would have liked to seen him finish his tasks before resigning; it now remains to be seen whether John Hutton, his replacement, will continue to reject Blair's demands for a macho stance on incapicity benefit reforms.

What will be most interesting now will be to see whether Blunkett again instantly takes up positions in the private sector. That may well be the litmus test of whether he has learned his lesson. His career is by no means totally dead, for while Peter Mandelson was not returned to the cabinet for a third time, Blair found him a job as trade secretary at the EU instead. Blair might be able to find similar for Blunkett. Whether he will retain his grace and favour house in Belgravia, as before, remains to be seen.

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Tuesday, November 01, 2005 

Blunkett: the new Mandelson.

David Blunkett, former Home Secretary and now Works and Pensions spokesman, appears to be again close to resigning, as once again he is embroiled in allegations of sleaze and conflicts of interest.

Blunkett was first forced to resign in December last year, following his admittance that he may have inadvertently helped "fast-track" his lover's nanny's visa. He denied that he knowingly did anything wrong. He is again pulling the same cover this time, with even less effective results.

David Blunkett now comes across as a sad and lonely man. Blind from birth, a handicap which must be incredibly painful and troublesome in dealing with other politicians as well as former lovers, he overcame his hardship and rose to be touted at one point as a potential prime minister. As Home Secretary, he annoyed the left and delighted the right, cracking down on "yobs" and attacking judges who dared to rule that some of his legislation was in breach of the Human Rights Act. I have previously written that he was the worst Home Secretary of recent times. I stand by that, but it doesn't mean that I don't feel sorry for someone who is now an easy target for the tabloids and poking fun at.

His problems started with his relationship with Kimberley Quinn, publisher of the right-wing Spectator and Telegraph group of newspapers. Quinn has since been exposed as being the Spectator bike, having relationships with at least three other men at the same time. Her reasons for this seem to be that her husband, who is very supportive of her, is either impotent or sterile. Instead she turned to others, with the result being a baby Blunkett, who he was since referred to as "the little lad" and tirelessly attempted to win custody rights to. She has also had another baby, of which her husband is not the father.

This is where the new scandal comes in. In proving his parentage, he came into contact with DNA Bioscience, a private company specialising in paternity tests. After his resignation, Blunkett wasted little time in joining the ex-ministerial gravy train and became a director on at least one other company. On April the 21st, less than 3 weeks away from the general election, he joined the board of the company and bought £15,000 of shares - 3% of its nominal worth. On May the 5th, he was back in the cabinet following Labour's 3rd consecutive victory and the following day he resigned from the board.

The first question arises from why he joined the board for such a short period of time, especially when it was open knowledge that he would be put back into a ministerial position; he himself was boasting about it. The explanation given is that he needed to to buy the shares, and that he was by no means certain that he would become a cabinet memeber again. The first part holds up, the second doesn't. Another reason for this is that he has ran up "mega legal bills" over his court cases attempting to get access to his son, which his salary as a MP and minister supposedly do not cover. It also raises murkiness over his reasons for joining the firm when it was competing for government contracts, especially when his personal problems were such a hot topic.

Even more damning, Blunkett did not seek the advice of the committee for business appointments. His explanation for this is that he thought it was voluntary. While taking the advice the committee gives is voluntary, seeking their advice is mandatory. The Times has since published letters showing the Blunkett was told by Lord Mayhew that he had to consult it about any business dealings when he resigned last December. In short, it seems to be another failure of memory by a man who we've been told before can remember meetings he had in the 70s while head of the Sheffield council with constituents.

Blunkett yesterday promised to sell the shares that he had put in trust for his sons with his ex-wife. It now seems unlikely though that this will be an end to the controversy that he hoped it would be. He has not apologised or admitted doing wrong, simply that he would sell the shares so that there is no issue of a conflict of interest. As the Guardian has said, he has done the least that he had to.

The Daily Mail and News of the Screws have been the foremost in attacking Blunkett. It's alleged that they set-up the honeypot entrapment with Sally Anderson that occurred at Annabel's, with the help of the shameless Max Clifford. He also has been attacked for using Commons headed note paper inappropriately and for keeping his Belgravia apartment he used while Home Secretary, with the agreement of Blair.

Blunkett has been a polarising figure, but now that he has been removed from the position of Home Secretary, despite his arrogant and deeply rhetorical oratory, he has so far not been a bad Works and Pension minister. As Polly Toynbee writes today, he is refusing to bow down to Blair's Tory-baiting benefit reform demands. A lesser minister might well give in to those demands, as might the weakening of his character thanks to the drawn-out press hounding.

Peter Mandelson is famed for resigning twice from the government, both times over scandals. He is also a polarising, some would say hated figure, often referred to as the prince of darkness. Blunkett is in danger of becoming the second Labour minister to fall on his sword twice. He has few friends left, following all his serious misjudgments and criticism which was published in a biography. He should stay works and pension minister for now, complete the green papers for benefit reforms, and then resign. He may need to just to end the tabloid free-for-all and to keep his sanity.

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Monday, October 31, 2005 

Loyalist Volunteer Force disbands, now for the rest.

The Loyalist Volunteer Force, one of the most reviled and unpredictable paramilitary groups thrown up by the Northern Ireland Troubles, last night ordered its military units to stand down.

The disbandment came hours after a truce was declared ending a murderous feud between the LVF and the Ulster Volunteer Force from which it broke away in 1996. Billy Wright, better known as "King Rat", founded the group after he and his associates were stood down by the UVF in 1996 following the sectarian murder of a Catholic taxi driver at the height of the Orange Order stand-off at Drumcree. Wright was shot dead in the Maze prison by republicans in December 1997.

In a six-week turf-war across north and east Belfast this summer, the UVF set out to "wipe out" the smaller splinter group, shooting dead four men it perceived to have LVF connections and attempting to murder 15 more. Many LVF members and supporters were forced from their homes.

While the group will claim that its order to military units to stand down, which took effect from midnight last night, was a response to the IRA's decision to disarm, it was under formidable pressure from other loyalists. The LVF, whose relatively small membership was centred around Portadown, Belfast and Antrim, was more a loose gang of criminals and drug dealers, which had been responsible for sectarian murders and violence.

In September 2001, it was behind the first murder of a journalist in Northern Ireland's Troubles.

Police are investigating possible LVF involvement in the murder of Lisa Dorrian, a 25-year-old shop assistant who disappeared from a caravan site in February.

It's now time for the other loyalist paramilitary groupings to follow suit. Sir Reg Empey, leader of the Ulster Unionists was the first mainstream loyalist politician to dare to suggest that the paramilitaries should disband now that the IRA has destroyed its weapons. You can imagine that Ian Paisley would rather kiss the pope than issue the same message. There is no longer any reason why these groups should be allowed to exist; they have and continue to terrorise some Catholic estates, as well as indulging in smuggling and drug dealing. The demonstrations of a couple of months ago, as well as the pettiness and political bankruptcy of the Democratic Unionists has shown that the loyalist community and the politicians that represent it are now the main obstacle to peace being achieved once and for all in Northern Ireland. It's about time that Peter Hain stepped in and stopped pussy-footing around Ian Paisley.

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