Concerns increased last night over the state of the UVF’s ceasefire after it 20lbs of high-powered explosives -- enough to power ten car bombs -- was uncovered.
PSNI police reported on Sunday only that they had found “munitions” during planned searches in north Belfast but refused to say what had been found.
However, it is understood that 20lbs of Powergel were found during searches in the Glencairn area, near a nationalist estate.
Powergel is one of the most powerful commercial explosives available and has been used by both the UVF and UDA. The use of the sophisticated explosive has in the past been linked to collusion by members of the British forces.
It was seized on the same day that UVF spokesman David Ervine warned of the potential of a “violent loyalist reaction” if the British and Irish governments pursued a policy of cross-border cooperation.
“It would be my dream that there won’t be violence,” he said, “but the reality is that when you make a people voiceless there will be a reaction and a response.”
He later insisted his comments had referred to the UVF and that he did not believe it intended any return to violence.
Powergel has been used by loyalists a number of times, including the car-bomb murder of human rights lawyer Rosemary Nelson in 1999.
Meanwhile, last night police uncovered arms in the Westlands estate in north Belfast - the former stronghold of the ousted Shoukri brothers - in connection with “serious crime”.
Elsewhere, serious trouble erupted in Magherafelt following a bonfire marking the anniversary of the introduction of internment.
The trouble broke out when a loyalist gang came from a nearby interface area to the nationalist bonfire with unionist and loyalist flags.
Mr McPeake said the gang also burned an Irish tricolour.
“There would have been no disturbance if that hadn’t happened,” he said.
The south Derry politician said the violence was particularly disappointing as great strides had been made in community relations in Magherafelt in recent years.