Robinson calls for list of decommissioned weapons to be published

Northern Ireland’s first minister, Peter Robinson, has called for the government to publish in full the inventory of weapons decommissioned throughout the peace process.

Northern Ireland’s first minister, Peter Robinson, has called for the government to publish in full the inventory of weapons decommissioned throughout the peace process, following a recommendation not to do so by the body overseeing the process.

Following the publication on Monday of the final report of the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning (IICD), Northern Ireland secretary, Owen Paterson, published a written statement in which he outlined the commission’s thinking.

He explained:

“Many will be expecting an inventory to be included in the report. The IICD did not provide the British and Irish governments with an inventory when they submitted their final report.

“This was rightly a decision taken independently by the Commission.

“The Commissioners say in their final report (paragraph 30) that:

“Providing details now of what paramilitary arms have been put beyond use, could, in our opinion, encourage attacks on those groups which have taken risks for peace. This is true of both Loyalists and Republican paramilitary groups.

“We would not wish, inadvertently, to discourage future decommissioning events by groups that are actively engaged today, nor to deter groups that have decommissioned their arms from handing over any arms that may subsequently come to light.”

“The IICD has made arrangements for the safe retention of the records of decommissioned arms by the United States Department of State in Washington who will hold them securely.”

However, Mr Robinson argued that the publication of the weapons that had been decommissioned was vital to support confidence building measures as well as ensuring the government remains committed to pledges made previously.

In a statement he argued:

“It is vital that the public gets to see just how much terrorist weaponry has been decommissioned. On no fewer than four occasions in the House of Commons, the former security minister, Jane Kennedy, confirmed that our own government would be provided with a full inventory of weaponry destroyed by the IICD when they completed their work.

“The government, in winding up the IICD, has clearly indicated that we are now at this point. That being the case, they should publish a complete inventory of everything that has been destroyed.

“Decommissioning was one of those issues that took a long time to be resolved: it soured the political atmosphere because of the foot dragging of those associated with criminal organisations to rid themselves of arms and support the police and rule of law. People will want to see just what has been achieved by the IICD in regard to putting the arsenal of illegal organisations beyond use.

“The public has a right to know what has been achieved and I would urge the Secretary of State to ensure the inventory, which should have been passed to our Government and the government of the Irish Republic is published.”

More extreme, however was TUV Leader Jim Allisteir, who said:

“Failure to publish full inventories confirms the suspicion of many that the true extent of decommissioning was exaggerated, if not fabricated, for patent political purposes. If there is nothing to hide, let us have full publication now.”

For Sinn Fein, meanwhile, its party president Gerry Adams argued the real issues were over whether or not unionist paramilitaries had properly decommissioned their arms.

Responding to the commission’s report, he said:

“Given the activities of the UVF in particular in recent times and the failure of the DUP formed Ulster Resistance to engage at all with the IICD there is a view that the arms issue has not been properly dealt with by sections of unionism.”

And an editorial for the Belfast Telegraph warned that a failure to release the information on decommissioned weapons could undermine the peace process, declaring:

“It is understandable that the list of terrorist weapons was kept secret during decommissioning, but to continue to do so is wrong and could be exploited by those seeking to undermine the peace process through rumour and innuendo.”

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.