Alliance Party MLA, Naomi Long, has welcomed the statement by General de Chastelain on IRA decommissioning, but has stressed that the wider issue of ending all paramilitary and criminal activity must continue to be addressed, both within republicanism and loyalism.
Councillor Long said:
“Alliance is encouraged by the statement of General de Chastelain and his colleagues on arms decommissioning. This is a significant step forward; however, it is one part of a wider process of building confidence and trust across the community which must continue on.
“Decommissioning is important, principally as a confidence building measure. In order to continue building confidence, activities such as paramilitary beatings, exiling, and criminal activity must also be shown to have ended and, over the coming months, we will study closely the reports of the IMC, as they assess the activities of both loyalist and republican paramilitaries on those issues.
Referring to the negative response of some unionists to the announcement, she said, “Yet again we see the huge capacity of some unionist politicians to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. After years of demanding decommissioning and stressing its importance, they have now seen it delivered and, rather than claim this progress, they have actively sought to undermine and devalue it. We in Alliance have no difficulty accepting the word of the IICD or the independent witnesses as to the significance of the acts which took place.
“If real confidence is to be built across the community, then the double standards of unionist politicians towards loyalist and republican
paramilitaries must also end. If they set the threshold high for republicans it must be equally as high for loyalists. They cannot with any
credibility continue to sit down and work with loyalist paramilitaries, some of whom are no longer even on ceasefire, and yet refuse to talk to Sinn Fein when the IRA has decommissioned. Such a position has no integrity and cannot be sustained.”