by Michael Hall
REPUBLICANS HAVE reacted furiously to the latest report by the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC), which alleges the IRA withheld unsubstantiated amounts of weapons from last September's decommissioning process.
The eighth report by the government-appointed body, released on 1 February, challenged the Independent Decommissioning Body's (IDB) conclusions that the IRA had put the "totality" of its arsenal beyond use.
The reported was informed by unnamed intelliegence sources in the north who claimed that a number of weapons had been retained by the organisation. The Commission said:
"These reports are not able to indicate precisely what is the nature or volume of any remaining weapons but suggests two things - first, that there is a range of different kinds of weapons and ammunition; second, that the material goes beyond what might possibly have been expected to have missed decommissioning, such as a limited number of handguns kept for personal protection or some items the whereabouts of which were no longer known.
"We recognise that, if these reports were confirmed, the key question would be how much the PIRA leadership knew about these weapons."
In a statement released one day after the report's publication Chairman of the IDB, General John De Chastelain, said he stood by his body's conclusions. The general discussed the allegations with senior Gardai in the south of Ireland, who said reliable intelligence sources had "produced no intelligence suggesting any arms have been retained"."We conclude that, in the absence of proof to the contrary, our September 26 assessment regarding IRA arms remains correct," the general said.
Sinn Fein's chief negotiator Martin McGuinness angrily dismissed the report at a press conference after the report's publication. He said:"Those who supply the information for these reports include DUP supporters in the Special Branch and are the same people who collapsed the political institutions and ten years ago were controlling and directing a murder campaign against Sinn Fein and wider nationalist community."
Meanwhile, DUP leader Ian Paisley has confirmed that, in light of the report, his party will not share power with Sinn Fein. Another year of direct rule in the absense of a power sharing agreement at Stormont now seems inevitable. (see also IMC report dovetails with anti-SF agenda)
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Copyright © 2006 Michael Hall