Paisley questions IRA arms decommissioning

The Rev Ian Paisley will today insist that republican involvement in criminality must end before there can be any political progress in the North.

The Rev Ian Paisley will today insist that republican involvement in criminality must end before there can be any political progress in the North.

The DUP leader is expected to deliver an uncompromising speech to his party’s annual conference in Belfast as he prepares for a fresh set of talks to revive devolution.

Sinn Féin and the IRA have angrily denied claims in recent days that some IRA members have retained a range of weapons, including handguns, despite carrying out a final act of arms decommissioning last September.

The accusations from security sources in the North were carried in reports by ceasefire watchdog the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) and General John de Chastelain’s international disarmament body.

But while the arms decommissioning body said it still believed that the IRA destroyed all the weapons under their control last autumn, that assessment was challenged by IMC member Lord Alderdice.

In the wake of the controversy, Mr Paisley, 79, said Gen de Chastelain should produce an inventory of all the weapons that were decommissioned by the IRA.

Looking ahead to next week’s talks, the DUP’s Nigel Dodds claimed that the British government could not brush aside the weapons issue.

He said: “The issue of IRA arms is now very firmly back and centre stage on the agenda. At the talks on Monday, the DUP will be demanding to know from Peter Hain and the government precisely how they now intend to proceed.

"The government and the IRA thought they had put the issue to bed. Now it has come back to haunt them. The government is now paying the price for setting aside the requirement of full and open transparency.”

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