Loyalist weapons move 'lacks clarity'

 

TRADITIONAL UNIONIST Voice leader Jim Allister has challenged the secrecy surrounding loyalist weapons decommissioning and criticised the process as “lacking credibility”.

Only immediate publication of a weapons inventory would establish the necessary public confidence, he said.

Gen John de Chastelain’s decommissioning body said yesterday it has witnessed “a major decommissioning event”.

This was welcomed by security minister Paul Goggins as a bold and welcome step by loyalist paramilitaries.

“The gun has been taken out of the equation as regards loyalist communities,” he said. “The political challenge can now be embraced by everybody who has a care about people who live on the edge of society.”

The move has also been greeted by the political parties and victims groups.

However, Mr Allister said the move by the UVF and Red Hand Commando, and the initial decommissioning steps taken by the UDA, were “unsatisfactory”.

“Self-certification by a paramilitary organisation that what has been decommissioned in fact represents the totality of their arsenal is as self-rewarding as it is lacking in transparency,” he said.

“The public need and demand clarity. As things stand, we cannot say what was decommissioned or where or when or how it took place. Reports of the UVF’s and UDA’s decommissioning lack credibility in the same way that those of the IRA’s in 2005 did.

“The inventories of what has been destroyed by the IRA and UVF should be published immediately. Then security experts will be in a position to make an informed judgment on what happened.”

Mr Allister said there was a negative side to decommissioning.

“A wealth of forensic evidence will have been lost. This will mean that the slim hopes victims had of seeing those who butchered their loved ones brought to justice have seen a significant setback. Failure to have granted these people their day in court is not something any society should celebrate.”

No details of the decommissioning have been revealed by the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning. Its statement said: “The IICD can confirm it has witnessed a major decommissioning event involving arms, ammunition, explosives and explosive devices belonging to the UVF and Red Hand Commando.”