Despite criticism, DUP says deal will end paramilitarism

An IRA gunman
An IRA gunman

There was strong criticism from victims of the latest Stormont political deal on Wednesday – however, the DUP insisted it would mean the end of paramilitaries.

DUP MLA Arlene Foster insisted the “Fresh Start” agreement contains direct action to “put paramilitaries out of business”.

“[It pledges] over £200m in resources for the police and security services to disrupt the criminality and terror gangs,” she said.

“This includes specialist forensic financial detectives who can tackle the criminal profiteers.”

She added: “The Joint Agency Task Force that will be established is a major step forward in the battle against organised crime and significantly we have agreement finally to work towards the disbandment of paramilitary groups.”

There is also a further £160m for the PSNI, she said.

But IRA victim Stephen Gault, whose father was killed in the 1987 IRA Poppy Day bombing, said he felt “let down once again”.

The fact that there was no agreement struck on dealing with the past was “insulting to those whom were murdered by terrorists”, he said, and “more or less means that my father’s murder doesn’t matter”.

He added: “It’s time that both governments and the Northern Ireland Assembly sort the legacy of the past once and for all. Peace is not the absence of terrorism, but the presence of justice.”

Innocent Victims United spokesman Kenny Donaldson claimed the agreement downgraded the term “terrorism” to “paramilitarism”.

“The reality is that there isn’t trust or confidence in the political process to deliver on the outcomes proposed around the issue of terrorism and criminality,” he said.

“The political establishment has gifted carrots for way too long, we now need less carrot and more stick.”

Victims’ campaigner Willie Frazer said the deal makes “no mention of victims”.

“They have removed the word terrorism and replaced it with paramilitarism,” he said. “It is clear that you cannot mention the IRA - but it was the entire reason Stormont nearly fell after shootings blamed on it.”

TUV spokesman Henry Reilly said: “The IRA retains weapons. The IRA Army Council continues to oversee Sinn Fein. None of that has changed as a result of this agreement.”

He added: “Expect the new [paramilitary] monitoring body to announce huge progress in relation to the IRA in the time leading up to the election.”