The Independent Monitoring Commission moved yesterday to apply more pressure on the question of loyalist decommissioning.
With Secretary of State Shaun Woodward also calling for urgent movement on the guns issue, the IMC suggested a public deadline.
“We believe that the time is fast coming when it may be advisable publicly to set a clear deadline beyond which the protections of the decommissioning legislation will cease to apply,” its report stated.
Those “protections” include no forensic testing of decommissioned weapons — with the amnesty provisions next due to be reviewed in February.
“Whether that is itself a suitable outer limit (for a deadline) is for others to determine,” the IMC said.
Yesterday Secretary of State Shaun Woodward said: “I made the point in May that the decommissioning train will leave the station sooner rather than later.
“Six months on that message has even greater urgency,” he warned.
But there is no certainty that the various loyalist leaderships will be able to deliver.
Yesterday, the latest IMC assessment revealed that some members of the UVF — including a senior member — had “sought to acquire weapons; in one case this was apparently to undertake an incendiary attack”.
The commission did not suggest the UVF leadership sanctioned the activity.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph after yesterday's news conference, IMC Commissioner Lord Alderdice said: “There is a responsibility on those who wish to use the facility of this legislation — either they use it pronto or that they find some kind of way of persuading Parliament that it should continue this legislation.”
He suggested any continuation of the legislation could be “for some months, maybe a further year or it may be a lot less, or it may not be possible at all to get this through Parliament”.