The Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble has said that the Northern Secretary and RUC Chief Constable should review the IRA's ceasefire following recent gun attacks. He said he was anxious to hear whether Mo Mowlam and Sir Ronnie Flanagan believed the IRA ceasefire was holding, following the murders of Eamon Collins, Brendan Fegan and Paul Downey in the Newry area and the shooting in England yesterday on RUC informer Martin McGartland yesterday.

Speaking to reporters in Belfast, Mr. Trimble said that he had not met anybody who doubted that Mr. Collins, Mr. Fegan and Mr. Downey were murdered by the IRA. He said that there was obvious suspicion that the IRA was responsible for the attacks on Mr. McGartland. “All these incidents had occurred over the last few months, so they had to ask the Chief Constable and the Secretary of State what was their assessment,” he said.

The First Minister reminded Dr Mowlam that under the legislation, guaranteeing early prison release of paramilitaries under the Good Friday Agreement, was a requirement on her to make a judgement on whether the ceasefire was holding. He said that he hoped the Northern Secretary was doing just that. Ms. Mowlam will have talks in Dublin on Monday with The Minister for Foreign Affairs David Andrews, as part of the continuing intensive efforts to meet the end of June deadline for advancing last year's Good Friday agreement.

Following the meeting of the party executive this afternoon, the Ulster Unionists reaffirmed their policy on decommissioning. They said that they would not sit in an Executive with Sinn Féin until the IRA had begun a credible and verifiable process of handing over weapons, leading to complete disarmament by May next year.

The party said that democracy could not be underpinned by illegal arms or terrorist armies. This was the democratic position, not an issue between Ulster Unionists and Sinn Féin, but an issue between democrats and terrorists. In the coming weeks, democracy must be vindicated, the statement said, and devolution of power must be achieved on a basis that included all democrats, but only democrats.

Martin McGartland, is in a stable condition in hospital after being shot and seriously wounded at his home in northeast England yesterday. Mr. McGartland, who is 28, underwent emergency surgery after being shot by two gunmen who scaled the garden wall of his terrace house at Whitley Bay in North Tyneside. He remains under an armed guard in hopsital. A senior police officer said that they could not rule out a connection between the attack and McGartland's IRA past, but repeated that it was far too early to draw any conclusions.