Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 25 December 2014

Terrorist arms list must not be secret

The decision by the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning (IICD) not to publish - or even give to the British and Irish governments - an inventory of the guns and other terrorism armaments handed over by various paramilitary groups is a controversial one. Essentially the IICD is asking the public, as well as local politicians, to trust them that all the weapons they knew about were destroyed.

However, trust is a two-way process. While it is proper at this time to acknowledge and applaud the work of General John de Chastelain and the other members of the IICD on their Herculean task in persuading loyalists and republicans to hand over their weapons, the lack of any inventory leaves a question mark over the process. The history of the Northern Ireland conflict shows that it is not always prudent to accept what we were told - without any corroboration - as entirely factual.

Like First Minister Peter Robinson, the public had an expectation that the details of decommissioning would be revealed once the process was completed. As far as the IICD is concerned the process is now over, although, of course, as recent events have shown, there are still armed paramilitaries at large in society here. They know where to obtain arms and explosives and the public is left wondering if those armaments are newly acquired or are the residue of arms dumps.

The IICD has shown its independence by withholding this information. However, it will give an inventory to the US State Department where, it says, the information will be held securely. Can they be certain of this, given the WikiLeaks revelations which have seen thousands of secret US government documents released to a global audience?

It is understandable that the list of terrorist weapons was kept secret during decommissioning, but to continue to do so is wrong and could be exploited by those seeking to undermine the peace process through rumour and innuendo.

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