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Arms find shows need for clean break with paramilitaries

Editor's Viewpoint

Published 19/09/2015

PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton
PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton

The discovery this week of an arms, ammunition and explosives cache in a house in West Belfast is a throwback to the worst years of the Troubles.

The discovery of more than a half-kilo of Semtex, two handguns, two detonators and 200 rounds of ammunition is a major development which gives cause for concern.

It adds credibility to the Chief Constable's recent claim that the framework of paramilitarism still needs to be taken seriously.

The technical status of this recently discovered material will give valuable clues about the kind of men and women who are still prepared to use violence

The discovery of such a haul of deadly material shows that there are still dissidents, of whatever hue, who still have the capacity to commit mass murder.

It also shows that the unionists still harbour fears about such matters, while it demonstrates the paucity of the argument put forward by republicans that the Stormont crisis is basically about in-fighting among their opponents.

There may be elements of points-scoring by unionists who are always too ready to quarrel, but this recent discovery of deadly material gives rise to genuine alarm among those who believed that the bad days had all gone.

All these matters also pose serious questions for Sinn Fein, and those who claim that the erstwhile Provisional IRA is merely a butterfly. What are Sinn Fein's links with dissident republicans, and how can they be finally put aside?

There is a need for the reassurance of unionism, which will require much more than the political smooth talk for which Sinn Fein is well known.

Now that the politicians have spent the last days engaged in talks about talks, there appears to be an opportunity to engage in meaningful dialogue from the start of next week.

The discovery of this new arms and explosive cache reminds us forcefully of the need for the talks to be successful, and for all of us to move into an era where there will be a clean break between the politicians and the paramilitaries. There is no other way forward.

Belfast Telegraph

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