14 March 2006

Cost of NI weapons body tops £8m

BBC

The cost of the body overseeing the decommissioning of NI paramilitary weapons has topped £8m, NIO minister Shaun Woodward has told the Commons.

The Independent International Commission on Decommissioning has cost between £276,000 and £701,814 each year since 1997 when the body was set up.

Mr Woodward said the British and Irish governments equally shared the costs.

"The total cost to date is £8,381,956, with the British government contributing £4,190,978," he added.

The DUP's Gregory Campbell said he was shocked by the figures.

"It shouldn't cost the UK taxpayer £4m to get rid of some of the weapons from some of the groups, and we haven't even begun some of the loyalist groups," he said.

"It seems an absurd amount of money to look at in terms of where we've got."

Weapons

The commission was established in 1997 under chairman General John de Chastelain, of the Canadian army.

Last September, General de Chastelain said the IRA had put all of its weapons beyond use.

"We have observed and verified events to put beyond use very large quantities of arms which we believe include all the arms in the IRA's possession," he said.

The IRA announced an end to its armed campaign in July.

The republican organisation said it would follow a democratic path ending more than 30 years of violence.

Loyalists are said to have an "on-off" relationship with the general.

A number of guns belonging to the Loyalist Volunteer Force were destroyed in 1998 in a token gesture of decommissioning, but no further arms have been handed over from any of the loyalist groups.

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