23 February 2006

Outrage at Paisley IRA arms claim

Belfast Telegraph

SDLP and SF slam remarks

By Noel McAdam
23 February 2006

Sinn Fein and the SDLP last night bitterly attacked DUP leader Ian Paisley as the issue of IRA arms continued to dog the political process.

Senior Sinn Fein negotiator Martin McGuinness told Mr Paisley to halt the DUP search for "excuses" to refuse to negotiate with republicans.

And SDLP leader Mark Durkan branded Mr Paisley a disgrace for implying the Provisionals could return to violence on the basis of the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) report which concluded they have eschewed terrorism.

Both parties accused the DUP leader of a complete failure of leadership and warned the Government would have to reconsider its approach in the devolution negotiations.

And the SDLP insisted the DUP figures associated with Ulster Resistance come clean about arms imported into Ulster in the 1970s.

The criticism came after Mr Paisley and senior colleagues met decommissioning body head General John de Chastelain following the row over the IMC report of police and intelligence claims that the IRA has retained some weaponry.

After the meeting, Mr Paisley said the police or MI5 should release any information they have indicating a failure of the IRA to destroy the 'totality' of its arms.

But Mr McGuinness said: "This meeting has little to do with IRA weapons. The IRA have dealt decisively with that issue and the DUP know this. What today's meeting is about is part of the DUP search for excuses not to engage.

"It's time the DUP 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."

Mr Durkan said Mr Paisley's remarks were disgraceful, reckless and inflammatory.

He said: "On the one hand Paisley says that he raised loyalist decommissioning with the IICD. Then in the next breath he predicts sectarian warfare and gives them the excuse they need to hold on to their weapons.

"The IMC was totally clear that the IRA leadership have eschewed terrorism. Ian Paisley deliberately makes out that they are about to resume it.

"These remarks show a complete failure of leadership by Ian Paisley. They must be withdrawn by him and condemned in the strongest terms by the two Governments."

SDLP Assembly member John Dallat added: "The DUP should come clean and tell what they know about the quantity and location of these and other weapons and if they passed on information either to the RUC or more recently the PSNI or the IICD."

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