Test weapons not decommissioned, call

Posted By: June 14, 2016

Allison Morris. Irish News (Belfast).Tuesday, June 14, 2016

THERE should be no new decommissioning until investigations into a shipment of weapons brought into Northern Ireland with the knowledge of intelligence services are concluded, Danny Lavery has said.

A solicitor acting for families whose loved ones were murdered with the South African arms also said any remaining guns should be forensically tested.

A panel set up to examine ways to encourage the disbandment of paramilitary groups, made up of former politicians Lord Alderdice and Monica McWilliams and solicitor John McBurney, delivered its recommendations last month.

The proposals included a new decommissioning scheme to deal with fresh requests from paramilitary groups wanting to put their arms beyond use.

First Minister Arlene Foster said an action plan will be drawn up this month.

Niall Murphy, who represents a number of families murdered with VZ58 and Browning weapons brought into Northern Ireland by loyalists with the knowledge of security services in the 1980s, said any remaining weapons should be forensically tested.

“If the first wave of decommissioning was carried out in good faith then there shouldn’t be any VZ58s in circulation,” he said.

“If there are and they were retained for whatever reason then if recovered those weapons must be subject to full forensic examination.”

He added that anyone whose loved one was murdered using one of the South African-sourced weapons should read the Loughinisland Police Ombudsman report and “apply it to their own case”.

Dr Michael Maguire raised questions about why all the weapons were not intercepted as police “informants at the most senior levels within loyalist paramilitary organisations” were involved.

The guns went on to be used in at least 70 murders and numerous attempted murders.

Civil actions against the Chief Constable have already been lodged in just under 30 cases but that figure could rise in the coming months.

Mr Lavery, whose brother Martin was murdered by loyalists in 1992 using one of the weapons, called for the decommissioning plans to be placed in “cold storage” until all remaining investigations are carried out.

The 40-year-old council worker was shot dead in front of three of his five children just five days before Christmas.

His brother, a former Sinn Féin councillor, said there are no political reasons for allowing further decommissioning.

“It is a way of dumping evidence in a legal manner and while these killings are being looked at again it shouldn’t even be considered,” he said.