Page last updated at 09:18 GMT, Thursday, 4 December 2008

Government 'must be firm on arms'

UDA gunman
Mark Durkan said the Government must be firm on its arms deadline

The government must stand firm on its deadline for loyalist decommissioning, SDLP leader Mark Durkan has said.

Loyalist paramilitaries have been given another year to get rid of their weapons, but the Government said this was their last chance.

Mr Durkan said loyalists had to take the deadline seriously.

"This is the Johnny Logan rule of government 'What's Another Year'," he said, referring to the Eurovison song.

"Ministers were wagging their fingers at loyalist paramilitaries and saying they really had to shape up and they couldn't go on renewing this legislation and as many of us thought was going to happen they simply have extended it."

The DUP's Jeffrey Donaldson said that loyalists had to decommission their weapons, but that extending the deadline was the right move.

"I think that on balance this was the right decision," he said.

"It's a difficult decision, but I don't think this can go on indefinitely that's for sure.

"I agree with Mark Durkan that there comes a time when either people are going to cross the line and embrace democracy and the rule of law or they're not."

It has been 14 years since loyalist paramilitary groups declared their ceasefires.

On Wednesday, the government laid papers in the House of Commons to begin the process of renewing the legislation that allows the decommissioning body to operate for another year.

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