“Very sad”, was how SDLP councillor Stephanie Quigley described a debate on continued paramilitary activity in Northern Ireland was disccused at a Causeway Coast and Glens Corporate Policy and Resources Committee meeting
A Notice of Motion, brought by UUP councillor William McCandless and seconded by councillor Aaron Callan, stated: “That this Council notes the significant unresolved matters highlighted in the recent Assessment of Paramilitary Groups in Northern Ireland.
“The continued existence and activities of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), Red Hand Commando (RHC), Ulster Defence Association (UDA), Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) and Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) all provide serious concern.
“Given that Sinn Fein are a party of government, it is of particular concern that the report states that the IRA Army Council remains intact, and is perceived to oversee Sinn Fein’s political strategy.
“It is also troubling that the Provisional IRA retain weapons, are involved in criminal activity, and that its members continue to carry out acts of violence, including murders.
“This Council further agrees that Sinn Fein must accept the truth, that the IRA still exists, and use all their influence to ensure the Provisional IRA, along with all other paramilitary organisations, leave the stage completely.”
Councillor Quigley said: “No one in their right mind wants us to stay in the past. We are here as civic leaders and should be talking about bringing investment to the area not squabbling about this - it’s very sad.”
Sinn Fein councillor Brenda Chivers proposed an amendment to the motion which was seconded by councillor Cara McShane.
It read: “That this Council notes the significant unresolved matters highlighted in the recent assessment of Paramilitary Groups in Northern Ireland.
“The continued existence and activities of paramilitary groups all provide serious concern. It is also troubling that these groups are involved in criminal activity, and that its members continue to carry out acts of violence, including murders. This Council further agrees that all parties use all their influence to ensure these groups leave the stage completely.”
Deputy Mayor, DUP councillor Darryl Wilson, said: “Everyone is keen to see a fresh start and for things to move forward. I think we have seen over the last 20 years or so a sticking plaster approach and we need to recognise the elephant in the room has left us in deadlock and in a very poor governance.
“I think we need to confront the problems of our past and look it square in the eye rather than banish parts of the past.”
DUP councillor George Duddy added that he had no issue with the motion, adding: “I think it’s fair to say that every respectable citizen in Northern Ireland wants to see paramilitaries confined to history.
“We have just come through a debate on our history and for any political party to sit in any chamber and say others shouldn’t be, when they are mandated to be. If they don’t feel comfortable sitting in that arena then the door opens both ways.
Following a vote councillor Chivers’ amendment was carried.