Friday, August 6, 1999 Published at 19:06 GMT 20:06 UK
Unionists reject IRA ceasefire statement
The IRA has denied involvement in murder of a taxi driver
Unionists in Northern Ireland have rejected an IRA statement that its ceasefire remains intact following the murder of a Belfast taxi driver last week.
In the statement the IRA also denied that its leadership sanctioned plans to smuggle guns into Ireland from the United States.
He said: "They were involved and I think that that statement should be treated with the kind of contempt that it deserves.
In a statement on Friday the IRA leadership said that its Army Council had not sanctioned any arms importation operation.
The statement added: "There has also been speculation about the recent killing of Charles Bennett. Let us emphasise that there have been no breaches of the IRA cessation, which remains intact."
Moving the goal posts
But the Democratic Unionist Party leader Ian Paisley said the IRA had a case to answer on both the murder and the alleged smuggling plot uncovered by the FBI in Florida.
''They are moving the goalposts."
The North Antrim MP also called on both the British and Irish governments to explain the exact definition of ceasefire.
He said: ''The Provos are trying to get themselves off some kind of hook here, and some people will believe that they were not involved in any of this activity.
"I think that it has to be clarified.''
'Firing of weapons ends ceasefire'
In the Republic of Ireland, former Taoiseach and leader of the main opposition Fine Gael party, John Bruton, said that unless words have ceased to have any meaning, the firing of weapons ends a ceasefire.
''There has to be political accountability for any breach of the ceasefire on the part of the party associated with the paramilitaries that carried it out.''
He added: "It would be interesting to know why the IRA leadership haven't stated that none of their members was involved in, perhaps, an unsanctioned operation,"
He said: "We share the widespread outrage and concerns over the recent developments, in particular, the killing of Mr Bennett and the attempted importation of arms.''
But David Ervine of the Progressive Unionists, which has close links with the loyalist paramilitary the Ulster Volunteer Force, said the statement was a positive sign.
"But by moving to clarify their position they are answering public opinion and that is no bad thing. If they are responding it shows they are conscious of how the atmosphere has been polluted in recent weeks."
The Sinn Fein President, Gerry Adams, welcomed the IRA's comments.
He said the statement should end the speculation about the IRA ceasefire.