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Alex Kane

A quarter-of-a-century after the Good Friday Agreement, the deadly hand of paramilitarism still has a grip on too many lives

Alex Kane


Criminal gang threatening journalists and politicians weren't even born when the Combined Loyalist Military Command declared its ceasefire, writes Alex Kane

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A UDA terror mural in Carrickfergus

A UDA terror mural in Carrickfergus

Police at the scene of the dissident republican killing of Kieran Wylie this week

Police at the scene of the dissident republican killing of Kieran Wylie this week

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

A UDA terror mural in Carrickfergus

It seems like a long, long time ago since there was an atmosphere in Northern Ireland politics that could be recognised as "hope". Twenty-five years ago, in February 1995, the document Frameworks For The Future (or the "frameworks documents", as it became known) was published by the UK and Irish Governments, confirming rumours that a proposed talks process would be built around three strands: relations within Northern Ireland; north-south; and London-Dublin.

The crucial difference between the frameworks documents and the Downing Street Declaration of December 1993 (and it was this difference that afforded the hope I mentioned above) was the position of the IRA and loyalist paramilitary groups: "The announcements made by the Irish Republican Army on August, 31, 1994 and the Combined Loyalist Military Command on October 13, 1994 are a welcome response to the profound desire of people throughout these islands for a permanent end to the violence which caused such immense suffering and waste and served only to reinforce the barriers of fear and hatred, impeding the search for agreement. A climate of peace enables the process of healing to begin. Everyone now has a role to play in moving irreversibly beyond the failures of the past."

The attitude of the governments - that the paramilitaries had to have an input, albeit through their political fronts - wasn't universally popular, let alone endorsed by all of the political parties.