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Police confirm 12 IRA assault rifles recovered since decommissioning

By Deborah McAleese

Published 08/09/2016

17kg of Semtex was among the weaponry found since the IRA decommissioned
17kg of Semtex was among the weaponry found since the IRA decommissioned

Twelve assault rifles belonging to the IRA have been found by police since decommissioning.

Almost 200 spent cartridge cases and more than 1,700 rounds of live ammunition have also been seized.

Other weaponry found included 17kg of Semtex. Although it was not possible to forensically link the batches to the terrorist group, the explosive was notoriously supplied to the IRA by Libya.

All the weaponry controlled by the IRA was supposed to have been decommissioned in 2005 when the senior IRA figure liaising with the Independent International Committee on Decommissioning gave an assurance that all the organisation's arms were put beyond use.

The decommissioning process was hailed by the British and Irish Governments, and praise was heaped on the committee headed by Canadian general John de Chastelain.

West Belfast-based Catholic priest Fr Alex Reid and former Methodist president Rev Harold Good witnessed the decommissioning.

In a statement afterwards, the two clergymen said: "We are satisfied that the arms decommissioning represents the totality of the IRA's arsenal."

Confirmation that weapons were in use post-decommissioning will raise serious questions as to whether they were stolen from arms dumps or handed over to dissidents by mainstream republicans.

In response to a question from the Policing Board, PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton said that since IRA decommissioning on September 26, 2005, 12 Romanian AKM assault rifles assessed to have originated from the IRA had been recovered.

In addition, 175 spent cartridge cases have been recovered following 13 incidents, and 1,748 rounds of live ammunition found in relation to 28 incidents.

All have been assessed to have originated from the IRA.

Policing Board member Ross Hussey said: "I wasn't surprised by the weaponry finds. There are tests still ongoing on guns and munitions, so I think we will find a lot more. I remain convinced that there is a connection between dissident republican groups and members of the IRA.

"I do not believe that weapons belonging to the IRA would be taken without authority.

"There are guns that could be linked to the IRA that are still being used.

"This shows that these groups are made up of former members of the IRA.

"Was the wool pulled over our eyes at decommissioning? That remains to be seen."

Police statistics also showed that in the past five years, 223 firearms - comprising 102 handguns, 70 shotguns, 43 rifles and eight sub-machine guns - have been recovered.

The PSNI said that of these, 68 were attributed to dissident republicans, 58 to loyalists and 97 to non-terrorists.

Meanwhile, Sinn Fein chairman Declan Kearney has said that dissident republican groups have been infiltrated by criminals, "including individuals dismissed with ignominy by the IRA in the past".

"They masquerade as republicans to pursue wanton criminality which extends to widespread taxation of drug dealers, extortion of businesses and building sites, tiger kidnappings, robbery, smuggling and theft of vehicles, farm machinery and livestock", he wrote in the republican magazine An Phoblacht.

He added that "organisations have emerged in recent years supposedly to promote an alternative republican strategy and agenda", but that some have become increasingly engaged in violent attacks.

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