The IRA has denied that some of its members have held onto handguns and other weapons.
In a report submitted to the Irish and British governments, Canadian General John de Chastelain’s decommissioning body revealed that the accusation was made against the IRA last week by security sources in the North.
The allegation was also put to the four-member Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC), which reported today on the state of the IRA’s ceasefire, but the republican paramilitary group denied it.
The disarmament body revealed it launched a probe into the assessment to find out whether it had been misinformed or had made a misjudgement when IRA weapons destruction was announced.
But with the Gardaí insisting it had no intelligence to corroborate the claims, the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning said it still believed the IRA destroyed all the weapons under their control last September.
The IICD told Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain and Minister for Justice Michael McDowell: “Last week we were informed by security sources in Northern Ireland that they had intelligence to the effect that some individuals and groups within the IRA have retained arms including handguns.
“There was no indication that the quantities of arms involved were substantial. We were also told there is no suggestion these arms (purportedly kept for personal protection and area defence) have been retained with the approval of the IRA’s leadership or as part of a wider strategy to return to violence.”
The commission said it raised the claim with the Gardaí, whose intelligence last year had indicated the IRA went to great lengths to locate and gather all the weapons, which were put beyond use.
General de Chastelain, his American colleague Andrew Sens and Finnish Brigadier Tauno Nieminen, said: “The Garda informed us that what they regard as reliable sources in relation to the IRA and its weaponry have produced no intelligence suggesting any arms have been retained.”
The commission said it also met an IRA representative twice last week who insisted all the arms that were dumped following the organisation’s July statement were collected and put beyond use.
The representative also insisted no weapons were retained and hidden in secret arms dumps.
The IICD revealed: “In a meeting later in the week the representative told us that following our earlier discussion the IRA leadership questioned each of their commanders about the intelligence assessment.
“These have confirmed that all the arms under their control were decommissioned in September, as we stated.
“We are reassured by the fact that none of the various intelligence assessments suggest the IRA leadership is moving away from its July 28 commitments.
“We conclude that in the absence of evidence to the contrary our September 26 assessment regarding IRA arms remains correct.”
The IICD reminded both governments, however, that in September it did not discount the possibility that a small number of the IRA’s weapons may have gone astray over the years as custodians died or the locations of some its arms caches were lost.
The latest allegations against the IRA will almost certainly deepen unionist scepticism about last September’s act of disarmament.
The DUP were cynical about the destruction of the IRA’s arsenal in the presence of the commission and two independent witnesses - Methodist minister the Rev Harold Good and Catholic priest Father Alec Reid.
With a fresh round of talks aimed at reviving the Assembly planned next Monday, the DUP has said it cannot envisage any inclusive power-sharing government involving it and Sinn Féin because unionists simply do not trust republicans.