After days of open warfare, British Direct Ruler Peter Hain is finally to admit that the unionist paramilitaries are no longer on ceasefire.
The British government has been derided in recent weeks for its adherence to the position that the UVF was abiding by its ceasefire, first declared in 1994.
The UVF has been blamed for five deaths in recnt months as it targeted both innocent Catholics and rival loyalist groups.
After being briefed by PSNI police chief Hugh Orde on the violence that has raged across Belfast and surrounding towns for three nights, Mr Hain confirmed he was set to announce his course of action.
Mr Hain, who studied CCTV footage of gunmen and petrol bombers in Belfast, County Antrim and County Down, said he was horrified by what he had viewed.
He declared: “The evidence I have seen this morning is absolutely clear-cut. If it wasn’t clear-cut before, it`s absolutely categorical now.
“As a result, I’m now going through, and indeed have been over the past week, a process in which I will be making an announcement in the next few days.”
Mr Hain refused to say if that would involve specifying, or declaring the ceasefires of both organisations in tatters, but he added that detailed legal issues were being examined.
“I need to do this in a proper way,” he insisted.
Mr Hain added that the situation had now reached a defining stage for political representatives and all others caught up in the violence.
He said: “This is a moment of choice for everybody, for politicians and for people right the way down through every part of the community.
“Whose side are you on? Are you on the side of law and order, applied fairly and equally to every citizen?”
Dublin’s Foreign minister Dermot Ahern described the violence as “an extremely worrying turn of events”.
“What happened was a huge effort to intimidate nationalist communities, who fear very much for the future,” he said.
The 26-County Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said the violence in Belfast over the weekend was “extremely dangerous” and marked “a very serious development”.
“It is essential that there should be renewed dialogue at community level to avoid a repeat,” he added.
Mr Ahern said: “This cannot be sorted out by governments - this is for the communities themselves... We need to get politics back on track and to get community goodwill working,” the Taoiseach said.
In Dublin, President Bush’s special Irish peace envoy, Mr Mitchell Reiss, called on unionist politicians to reassert themselves in their communities. He said “no political party and no responsible leadership deserves to serve in government unless it wholly and unconditionally supports the police and calls on its constituents to do the same”.