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Northern Ireland Protestants Break Cease-fire, says Britain - 2001-10-12

Britain has ruled that three Protestant militia groups in Northern Ireland have broken their cease-fires. The move comes at a critical time for the province's fragile peace process.

Britain's Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid is blaming a surge in sectarian violence on the Ulster Defense Association, the Ulster Freedom Fighters and the Loyalist Volunteer Force.

His ruling clears the way for authorities to send members of those three Protestant militias back to prison, revoking the paroles they have enjoyed under a 1998 peace agreement.

Recent crimes blamed on the paramilitaries include the murder of a newspaper reporter and a series of violent riots in North Belfast.

Mr. Reid's move comes as the peace process faces new difficulties. Protestant politicians are threatening to quit the ruling coalition next week. They are angry because the Irish Republican Army has not disarmed.