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IRA accused in rioting

Published Oct. 4, 2005

Violence sparked by the release of a British soldier convicted of murder eased by day Tuesday, but throughout the night rioting youths threw gasoline bombs at police patrols and set a car dealership on fire, destroying 20 vehicles.

A hospital also was evacuated after a bomb threat.

Still, Tuesday's unrest was muted compared to that of the previous day. Prime Minister John Major accused Sinn Fein, the political arm of the Irish Republican Army, of orchestrating the rioting Monday in which more than 150 hijacked vehicles were set afire.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Major denied there was any political motive in the release of Pvt. Lee Clegg, a paratrooper sentenced in 1993 to life in prison for shooting a Roman Catholic woman to death.

The leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland, Cardinal Cahal Daly, described the release of Clegg as "a grave blunder" that overrode the course of law.

"There must now be urgent action in the case of other prisoners who had the experience of being caught up at a young age in troubles which they did not have any control over," Daly said.

In the House of Commons, Joe Hendron, a Catholic lawmaker from Belfast, said the government had "sacrificed the stability of the peace process for short-term political gain." That drew angry shouts from Conservative lawmakers.

Sinn Fein officials complained that Britain has taken no action to speed up the release of IRA members and other paramilitary prisoners serving life sentences.