(Wednesday, August 2) Paisley blast at IRA claims

IAN Paisley "bluntly" told Peter Hain yesterday that people are angry at continued Government claims that Sinn Fein/IRA are fit for office.

He also repeated that the November 24 deadline "is not a deadline for the DUP".

After a meeting at Hillsborough Castle, the DUP leader said he put it "forcibly" to the Secretary of State that the unionist community was annoyed with claims that republicans were free of criminal and paramilitary trappings when "all the evidence is to the contrary".

Last week, Mr Hain and Irish Justice Minister Michael McDowell told reporters that the IRA leadership were no longer involved in crime and terror and were

"delivering 100 per cent" on promises to end all such activities.

They said any criminality was that of individual IRA members for private gain and unsanctioned by leaders.

This rosy picture was at odds with reality, said Mr Paisley, who added that:

* "The Northern Ireland Affairs Select Committee which includes MPs from the Labour Party listed several examples of ongoing IRA illegality, especially in relation to organised crime."

* "In recent days, we have seen a diesel washing operation which was capable of generating millions of pounds of

income each year uncovered in Cullyhanna."

* "We have also heard how the sister of IRA informer Martin McGartland was told by police that her safety was under threat. This news broke immediately after the Secretary of State's comments that he believed the IRA had ended all of its illegal activity."

* "Only yesterday, Sinn Fein forced a District Policing Partnership meeting in Dromore, Co Tyrone, to be cancelled after their concerted campaign in the local area."

Mr Paisley went on: "It is clear that Sinn Fein/IRA are still involved in terror and crime and do not deserve the clean bill of health the Secretary of State gave them."

He also raised the issue of community restorative justice schemes and the fears many people have over paramilitary involvement in them.

"And I told him the focus should not be on unionists," he said. "The DUP are democrats. The spotlight should remain firmly on those who have failed to reach the basic democratic standards required to hold public office.

"The DUP has a mandate to settle for nothing short of republicans being committed to exclusively peaceful and democratic means.

"The November deadline is not a deadline for the DUP. It is for republicans to convince the community the IRA has ended its terrorist and criminal campaign."