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Bloody Sunday, election, Irish, Ireland, British, Ulster, Unionist, Sinn Féin, SDLP, Ahern, Blair, Irish America

Loyalists' guns may be turned on them

(by Liam Clarke, Sunday Times)

A senior PSNI officer has warned loyalist para-miliaries that if they hold on to their weapons too long they could find the guns being turned on them by younger rivals .

Peter Sheridan, an Assistant Cheif Constable, said: "The leaders are getting older and a younger breed is coming through so they have to ask themselves will they always be in control? Could these guns be turned on them and would it be better to deal with them now?"

Yesterday (Saturday) Dawn Purvis, the head of the UVF's political counterpart, called for decommissioning. She said it would be an indication "that loyalist communities are feeling safe, that they have been brought into the new political dispensation and they are reaping the benefits of redevelopment and regeneration."

Shaun Woodward, the secretary of state, warned last week that the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning (IICD) would be wound up unless the loyalists started decommissioning soon. The IICD started work in September 1997. It completed IRA decommissioning in 2005 but will not give an inventory of the weapons until it remit is coplete.

The IICD has offices in Belfast and Dublin and is jointly funded by the British and Irish governments at a cost of around £2,000 a day.The total bill to date is almost £9 million and its remit is due for renewal next February.

Sheridan said the International Monitoring Commission (IMC) which reports on para-military ceasefires was also likely to wind up. "There is a day coming where you won't have an IMC, you won't have an IICD and people who are left in the para-military world will then be regarded purely as criminal gangs" he siad. "Nobody will want to deal with them politically."

He pointed out that the IICD allowed the para-militaries to dispose of weapons without the risk of prosecution. "Once it is gone the normal criminal law will apply so if we get DNA or finger prints on weapons there will be charges."

May 28, 2008
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This article first appeared in the Sunday Times on May 25, 2008.

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