UUP Policing Board representative, Ross Hussey MLA, says a major effort is required to tackle the problem of illegal weaponry.
Mr Hussey said: “I have received answers to a number of questions which I posed to the Chief Constable regarding terrorist weaponry.
“One answer states that with regard to the numbers of weapons, munitions and explosives retained by the PIRA, the assessment confirms that ‘the group took part in decommissioning between 2001 and 2005 but continues to have access to some weapons.’
“This is clearly of major concern to anyone who believes in democracy, given the well-documented and historic links between the Provisional IRA and Sinn Féin. Clearly Sinn Féin have major questions to answer with nature and extent of links between a political party – which publicly claims to support the Police and to be committed to exclusively peaceful means - and an armed group.
“I welcome the assurance from the Chief Constable that ‘the recovery of illegal weapons is a priority for the PSNI’ and was interested to learn that between August 2012 and August 2015 the PSNI recovered 94 weapons, including 10 rifles and that ‘a majority of these rifles were AKM derivatives of Romanian origin, of a type previously used by local paramilitaries.”
“The other weapons recovered included 40 shotguns, 6 sub-machine guns, and 26 handguns and two home-made ‘zip guns’ and I very much welcome the fact that criminals have been denied access to these weapons.
“The information I have received also states that ‘violent dissident republican groups have possession of a wide variety of firearms and munitions that have been procured through various means including – a proportion that appear to be older and are assessed to have been in the possession, at some time of other republican groups.’
“This confirms what I have been saying for some time, namely that so-called dissident republican groups have access to weaponry and expertise that previously belonged to the Provisional IRA and this too has implications.”