'Blair focused on prize of no more IRA'

British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s eyes are fixed on the prize of the IRA going away for good, a loyalist political leader will tell his party today.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s eyes are fixed on the prize of the IRA going away for good, a loyalist political leader will tell his party today.

Progressive Unionist leader David Ervine is due to tell colleagues at their annual conference in east Belfast that unionists and loyalists need to prepare themselves for a possible groundbreaking move on the IRA’s future.

The East Belfast Assembly member will assess the state of political talks in a speech to PUP members.

The conference will also be addressed by journalist Peter Taylor, whose recent documentary on the Brighton bomb featuring republican Patrick Magee was aired last month.

Mr Taylor has written several books and presented several programmes about key events in Northern Ireland such as Bloody Sunday.

He was also responsible for a trilogy of TV series about the conflict, Provos, Loyalists and The Brits.

It is the first party conference the Progressive Unionists have held since last November’s Assembly Election.

Mr Ervine held on to his Assembly seat in East Belfast, but the party suffered a setback with the loss of Billy Hutchinson’s seat in North Belfast.

As well as Mr Ervine’s keynote leader’s speech, PUP members were expected to focus on sectarianism, the use of art as a learning tool to tackle disadvantage and re-employment for people recovering from mental illness.

A panel discussion will also focus on 10 years since the loyalist ceasefire.

The PUP is linked to the Ulster Volunteer Force and Red Hand Commando.

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