18 January 2006

DUP tells security minister to resign

Belfast Telegraph

By Fiona McIlwaine Biggins
18 January 2006

The DUP is calling for the resignation of Security Minister Shaun Woodward after a senior PSNI officer directly contradicted his assessment that the IRA is no longer involved in criminality.

Assistant Chief Constable Sam Kinkaid is understood to have told Policing Board members at a private briefing last night that the IRA still remains active in organised crime.

Ian Paisley Jnr, the DUP's justice spokesperson, who was at the briefing, said: "The Policing Board received a detailed security briefing and the Security Minister received the same, but his interpretation can't be justified.

"We have no confidence in the Security Minister, and when it comes to that there is only one place to go."

The new development will have a significant impact, coming just days before an Independent Monitoring Commission report on all activity by paramilitary groups.

UUP leader Sir Reg Empey said ACC Kinkaid's reports were "a damning assessment not only of republicans but also of the Security Minister's credibility."

He described Mr Woodward's assessment as "off the wall".

Mr Kinkaid told board members that there had been significant progress in terms of ending some activities on the part of the IRA, such as paramilitary attacks and armed robberies.

However, he told the board that no paramilitary group, including the IRA, had ceased organised criminal activities - and that the police had seen no change in this for a year.

Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey said that the reports coming from the Policing Board meeting were "a damning assessment not only of republicans but also of the Security Minister's credibility."

He said that last month the minister had suggested that the IRA was no longer involved in criminality.

"This report reveals how off the wall and misinformed that statement was," said Sir Reg.

SDLP spokesman Alex Attwood MLA - a Policing Board member who received the briefing - said: "Whatever was or was not said at the policing board today, the British Government should stand by the facts, whether they are good or bad."

However, Sinn Féin's spokesperson on policing, Gerry Kelly, said the situation would no doubt be seized upon by the DUP and others who have set their face against the democratic rights of citizens.

Meanwhile, Alliance justice spokesman Stephen Farry said: "If the IRA are still involved in organised crime, this poses a threat to progress because it raises questions to their commitment to a society based upon democracy, human rights and respect for the rule of law.

"There can be no equivocation on these points."

An NIO spokesman said: "It is for the Independent Monitoring Commission to comment on this issue and their next report is due very shortly."

The only comment from the police was that this was a confidential briefing at a private meeting of the Board.

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