Published in Belfast Telegraph – click here to read
Terror victims fear weapons formerly used by the Provisional IRA in east Tyrone, and believed to still be in circulation, may find their way into the hands of dissidents, it has been claimed.
Weapons were displayed previously on the anniversaries of the deaths of two Provisionals and a loyalist bar attack, and there is no evidence they were destroyed, according to Ulster Human Rights Watch (UHRW).
Jonathan Larner, an advocacy worker with UHRW, claims the PSNI has not made any effort to find or seize the weapons or ammunition, which were displayed at a memorial for PIRA members Martin McCaughey and Dessie Grew, shot dead by undercover soldiers in Co Armagh in 1990.
Guns, including AKM assault rifles, were also reportedly displayed in 2011 on the 20th anniversary of the UVF attack on Boyle’s Bar in Cappagh, in which four people died.
Larner believes the weapons may reappear at a gathering to mark the 30th anniversary in October of the deaths of McCaughey and Grew.
He noted recent reports suggesting that in MI5 recordings, alleged members of the New IRA had revealed their frustration at not being able to access weapons once under the control of the Provisionals.
This, he added, suggests there is “un-decommissioned weaponry out there”.
The recording was made as part of an MI5 surveillance operation that has seen a number of people charged with terror offences.
Larner said: “Ten years of effort by the family of one victim to see these weapons removed from circulation has been ignored by the PSNI, with the initial request to seize the weapons made while they were still on open display in Galbally.”
The PSNI could not immediately respond to the allegations yesterday.
Following the display of the weapons, the family of one PIRA victim complained to the Police Ombudsman, who carried out an investigation.
“Shockingly, the Police Ombudsman reported to the family in 2016 that police had made contact with the owner of the weapons only to confirm that they were ‘deactivated’ and ‘certified’,” Larner said.
“Police had described the terror arsenal as ‘items’ in a ‘virtual museum’, with officers suggesting to the family that images of guns in the display were ‘photoshopped’.”
Larner claims that police, in a letter to him, denied making any contact with those believed to be holding the weapons, which “leaves them having actively ignored an openly displayed haul of terror weapons and paraphernalia”.
“Police inconsistency and inaction is hardly ‘keeping people safe’.
“As well as demanding action from the police, Ulster Human Rights Watch are calling upon those in possession of these guns not to bring them out on October 9 for the 30th anniversary of the McCaughey and Grew killing, and to contemplate the continued suffering inflicted on victims’ families by such a horrific event,” Larner added.
“Given police inaction, we also call on the Secretary of State to consider reconstituting the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning (IICD), in line with provisions made in Paragraph 51 of the IICD Final Report of 2011, in order to ensure that all terrorist weapons, including those of the East Tyrone PIRA arsenal, are properly decommissioned.”