A published inventory of weapons decommissioned by the Provisional IRA would come as “too little, too late,” a DUP politician has said.
The inventory is reported to be part of a new plan by the London and Dublin governments to coax Ian Paisley’s hardline unionist party into talks with Sinn Fein.
The inventory would be timed to follow an imminent government report into the IRA , which is expected to find that the IRA has ceased all military activity.
But DUP assembly member Ian Paisley jnr said: “The suggestion that the British and Dublin governments are considering the publication of an inventory of IRA weapons supposedly destroyed last year in order to assure unionists, will be regarded by many as too little, too late.”
He said the DUP had argued for their own witness, an independent photographic record of the process, and an inventory, but this had been dismissed.
“Now that the government is considering doing part of what they once said was impossible, many will see for themselves the folly of all those who participated in a decommissioning process that failed to build the confidence of unionists but just blurred the waters further.
“If it is now suddenly possible to do what was claimed to be impossible, why was it not achieved at the time?”
There has been independent confirmation of the report, which appeared in a Sunday newspaper.
Mr Paisley also queried the reliability of an inventory which had not been verified by photographs and a witness of the DUP’s own choosing.
He said that the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning had confirmed to the DUP that an inventory it had previously worked from had been revised down.
These matters amounted to “significant credibility gaps,” Mr Paisley said.
“The government knows that the DUP is genuine in its desire to see progress but it must be on a firm foundation,” he said.
“Unionists deserve to have their confidence built but that will not be achieved by short-term measures that are all about saving face rather than saving lives.”
STEPS NEEDED ON POLICING
Meanwhile, Sinn Fein has said it will not be in a position to consider supporting the PSNI police in the North until after negotiations on the shape of a future justice department.
The party is ultimately to hold a special party conference [Ard Fheis] to consider a change in its policy on policing. Sinn Fein is negotiating for further reform of the PSNI in line, with the recommendations of the Patten Commission set up under the Good Friday Agreement.
A first step is expected to be taken by the British government next month by preparing “enabling legislation” for the devolution of policing and justice powers.
The British, 26 County and US governments have been pressuring Sinn Fein to quickly sign up to policing but republicans have so far resisted such a move.
In a statement, Sinn Fein policing spokesman Gerry Kelly said: “The reports that an enabling bill for the transfer of power on policing and justice is to be introduced to Westminster is a welcome first step.
“Publicly and in meetings with the British government Sinn Fein have been pushing strongly for the transfer of powers on policing and justice away from London.
“In negotiations with Sinn Fein in December 2004 the British government agreed to introduce this framework legislation as a first step.
“However, the important detail of the powers to be transferred, what the best departmental model is and the timeframe involved are all issues which need to be worked out as a matter of urgency.
“The DUP amongst others need to be ready to discuss the detail on transfer as a core issue in setting up the interdependent political institutions agreed under the Good Friday agreement.”