Scepticism has been voiced over how likely it is that a cache of firearms belongs to loyalist paramilitaries.
It has been claimed the way the 16 semi-automatic weapons were hidden could point away from any mainstream paramilitary organisations - although ultimately one MLA said that it remains a “guessing game” while the police investigation is still underway.
In the Irish News yesterday, SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell was reported as saying: “From the location in which they were found, I would suspect it was a loyalist paramilitary organisation.”
The leader of the PUP said at the weekend there was no evidence linking the find to the UVF, and suggested a purely criminal connection.
Reverend Chris Hudson, a cleric and former trade unionist who acted as a go-between for loyalists during the peace process, had a similar take on the find.
Judging from media reports of the discovery, which was made in a publicly assessable piece of woodland close to a school, he said the whole thing appeared “clumsy”.
“If it was a seasoned paramilitary organisation they would’ve had a lot better history of how to store weaponry than that,” he said.
He still meets senior figures in the leadership of the UVF and UDA, and said despite the street violence of the past year, he has never got the signal that a return to an armed campaign is on the cards.
He said: “This isn’t science, but the impression I would get is whilst these people would accept there is anger on the streets, and there is a sense of marginalisation within the loyalist community because of the whole issue around the flag... they’d actually balk at the idea there’s any intent from anybody within their communities restarting what we call the Troubles or the war.
“In my reading of the situation, I have no impression between the two main loyalist groups that there is any intention by either of those groups of returning to violent activity.”
However, it is possible some “micro-dissident group” could have emerged outside the orbit of the main factions, he said, or that drugs criminals were responsible for the guns.
The DUP’s Jimmy Spratt, MLA for South Belfast, served with the RUC for 30 years and was also a former head of the Police Federation in Northern Ireland.
His impression of the situation was that it looked “very amatuerish”.
“That’s what leads me more towards the criminal fraternity,” he said.
“But it’s a guessing game, frankly, at this point in time.”