**Story from my email compliments of Seán from Yahoo! group ira2

Police Warn of Dissident Threat to N.Irish Poll
Tue November 25, 2003 11:22 AM ET

By Alex Richardson

BELFAST, Northern Ireland (Reuters) - Northern Ireland's police chief
warned Tuesday dissident Irish republican guerrillas opposed to the
peace process could mount attacks aimed at disrupting crucial
province-wide elections.

More than 2,000 extra policemen would be deployed to guard voting
stations Wednesday.

Chief Constable Hugh Orde's eve-of-poll message came after overnight
gun and bomb attacks blamed on breakaway factions of the Irish
Republican Army opposed to a 1998 peace accord aimed to end three
decades of violence in the British-ruled province.

"The two attacks were clearly aimed at disrupting the
election," said

Hard-line parties on both sides of the sectarian divide are expected
to the make gains in the election, a development which could scupper
British efforts to secure a speedy revival of the province's
mothballed power-sharing assembly after the poll.

Northern Ireland's 1.1 million voters can cast ballots from 7 a.m.
for the second election to the assembly, set up under the 1998 Good
Friday pact which sought to reconcile pro-British unionists with
Catholic Irish nationalists after a 30-year conflict costing more
than 3,600 lives.

"We are determined to protect those who want to go and exercise
democratic right to vote. Over 2,000 extra officers will be deployed
tomorrow," Orde added.

The assembly has been suspended since October 2002, when Britain
resumed direct rule of the province after a coalition of the four
main Protestant and Catholic parties fell apart amid allegations of
IRA spying.


The IRA, whose political ally Sinn Fein is expected to do well in the
election, has been observing a cease-fire since 1997.

But dissident factions opposed to the peace strategy of Sinn Fein
leaders Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness continue to mount sporadic

One group, Continuity IRA, was blamed for planting a bomb which
partially exploded outside a British Army base in Dungannon late
Monday. Two police officers narrowly escaped injury. In a separate
attack, shots were fired from a passing vehicle at a police station
in Armagh. No-one was hurt.
Elections in Northern Ireland are effectively two contests. The
moderate Ulster Unionist Party led by David Trimble and the hard-line
Democratic Unionist Party of preacher-politician Ian Paisley battle
for the votes of majority Protestants, while Mark Durkan's moderate
SDLP contests Catholic votes with Sinn Fein.

Two weeks ago the only opinion poll of the campaign gave the UUP and
SDLP narrow leads over their rivals.

But polls consistently underestimate support for the two hard-line
parties, and bookmakers have made the fervently anti-gambling Paisley
favorite to lead the largest party and predict Sinn Fein will beat
the SDLP. Most analysts agree.

"The British government canceled the last elections in May because
they thought the DUP was going to be the largest party, and I don't
think they've really done much since then to change the situation,"

said Paul Dixon of the University of Ulster.

"The SDLP have put on a good show, but whether that's really enough

to arrest the growing march of Sinn Fein I'm not sure."

Both nationalist parties support the Good Friday accord as do the
majority of Trimble's UUP. But Paisley wants to tear up the agreement
and force negotiations on a new deal.

If the DUP and Sinn Fein are in the ascendant after the election it
is unlikely a consensus could be found on resuming power-sharing in
Belfast and an extended period of direct rule from London would loom.

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