The British government was today accused of being involved in a cover-up over the IRA’s final act of disarmament.
The Rev Ian Paisley made the claim after he was told by General John de Chastelain’s arms decommissioning body it would not produce any inventory of the Provisionals’ weapons until all other paramilitary groups had got rid of theirs.
“We have now a cover up,” the North Antrim MP said.
“We have a cover up by the Government who actually are in the controlling seat and they have agreed evidently with the IRA that decommissioning is finished, the books were open, the books were sorted out and this question is now closed.
“The Government will not take any step to see that the whole truth comes out on this matter.
“So I would indict the Government of double standards. I would indict the (disarmament) commission for not pushing this thing and saying truthfully if we can’t do this job right, we are not going to stay any longer.”
Last September the IRA carried out a final act of decommissioning in the presence of General de Chastelain, his colleagues and two clergymen acting as independent witnesses – Redemptorist priest Fr Alex Reid and Methodist minister, the Rev Harold Good.
The Democratic Unionists have been sceptical about the move because the IRA would not consent to any photographs or video footage of the weapons being put beyond use.
That scepticism was further fuelled earlier this month when Northern Ireland’s ceasefire watchdog the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) and General de Chastelain confirmed security sources told them they believed the Provisionals had retained a range of weapons.
After consulting the IRA and the gardaí, General de Chastelain’s commission said it was satisfied the Provisionals had put beyond use all the weapons under their control.
However IMC member Lord Alderdice queried that assessment, saying at this stage he was not so convinced.
Mr Paisley called on MI5 and the Police Service of Northern Ireland today to release publicly what they knew about the claims.
The DUP leader, who also discussed loyalist weapons with the General, said: “They should tell the people what they know.
“They should tell the people what they know so that the people can be forearmed to meet what is going to happen because those arms are going to be used against the Protestant population of Northern Ireland.”
Mr Paisley’s comments were criticised by nationalist SDLP leader Mark Durkan.
“On the one hand, Paisley says that he raised loyalist decommissioning with the IICD,” the Foyle MP said.
“Then in the next breath he predicts sectarian warfare and gives them the excuse they need to hold on to their weapons.”
Sinn Féin chief negotiator Martin McGuinness also accused the DUP today of searching for excuses not to engage with his party.
The Mid Ulster MP said the DUP’s meeting with General de Chastelain had little to do with the issue of IRA weapons.
“The IRA have dealt decisively with that issue and the DUP know this,” he said.
“What today’s meeting is about is part of the DUP search for excuses not to engage.
“It is time that the DUP began to live up to their political responsibilities and began showing the sort of political leadership they promised to deliver.
“The time for excuses is over and the two governments need to make this clear to the DUP.”