21 March 2006

Robinson: DUP would discuss ending crime with loyalists


21/03/2006 - 16:34:30

The Democratic Unionists are ready to hold talks with loyalist paramilitaries if it would help them abandon crime, deputy leader Peter Robinson signalled today.

The East Belfast MP accepted his party has a responsibility to use whatever influence it has to shift the terrorists towards peace.

He said: “We believe, just as we believe the republican movement must completely end all of their paramilitary and criminal activity, so too must loyalist organisations.

“We recognise there’s some element with them seeking to bring that about. Equally we know some are resistant.

“If it’s felt we can influence that situation we are willing to do it. But we need to be convinced our influence is of assistance.”

Mr Robinson’s assessment came after he led a party delegation to meet the Independent Monitoring Commission ceasefire watchdog in Belfast.

He and his colleagues have already held talks with the Rev Mervyn Gibson, chairman of the Loyalist Commission, in an attempt to progress the paramilitaries away from violence and criminality.

The DUP deputy leader believed senior representatives on the Ulster Defence Association and Ulster Volunteer Force genuinely want a new start.

“There are people on both the main organisations who are wanting to move in that direction,” he said.

“The big issue is whether they can bring their organisations with them.

“I don’t question any organisation is capable of doing it, but in many cases it’s the speed with which they want to do it.

“The longer ceasefires continue the more there will be concentration by the security forces in resolving the level of crime that exists.

“Clearly it’ in everybody’s interests to get rid of that crime.”

At today’s meeting the DUP also discussed the latest reports issued by the four-man IMC, which included an assessment that the IRA threat had gone.

But Mr Robinson insisted both the Provisionals and other terror groups are still steeped in crime.

“The IMC accepted that while, in their view, there may be no intention on behalf of republicans they retain the capacity to wage a campaign of terror and as such would be defined as a threat,” he added.

“There can be no disguising the fact that the IRA and other paramilitary groups are still fully and deeply engaged in criminal activity.

“The IMC attempted to justify the removal of sanctions from Sinn Fein on the basis that the republican leadership had been taking steps in the right direction.

“Such an attitude gives encouragement to republicans who are attempting to define the level of criminality that will be tolerated by the community. We welcome the IMC view that there can be no acceptable level of criminal activity.”

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