Page last updated at 07:53 GMT, Wednesday, 16 December 2009

UDA may decommission more weapons over Christmas

UDA symbol
The UDA only decommissioned a portion of its arsenal

Secretary of State Shaun Woodward said he is optimistic there could be further loyalist decommissioning over the Christmas period.

In June the UVF decommissioned all weapons under their control, but the UDA only decommissioned some weapons.

Mr Woodward was speaking after a meeting with the Irish Foreign Minister Micheal Martin.

They also said they hoped the DUP and Sinn Fein could overcome differences over the devolution of justice.

First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Martin McGuinness were involved in a public clash on the issue earlier this week.

Mr Woodward said it was important to remember that despite their differences, the DUP and Sinn Fein were devolutionists in principle.

He also noted that both have already agreed to a £1bn funding package with the Treasury to support NI's new justice department.

'Local difficulties'

"It's clear to me that what we've got to recognise here is the shared sense of common purpose," he said.

"Peter Robinson is a moderniser, he is a devolutionist, he does not want a British (government) secretary of state running policing and justice any more than Martin McGuinness wants to see - perhaps for different reasons - a British secretary of state running policing and justice. So let's be really clear: they share a common goal, they share a common purpose."

He added: "Yes there are some ... local difficulties at the moment, the rhetoric is loud, it is looking a bit difficult.

"Having said that though, remember where we've come from, remember the obstacles that were overcome."

Mr Martin echoed his sentiments."It's clear there are a remaining number of steps to be taken," he said.

"If you were to take the politics out of it for a second it would appear to me to be entirely within the grasp of the parties to achieve a solution to this devolution question and to bring about an early devolution of policing and justice. I am hopeful that that can happen.

"Obviously both governments will work with the parties to support them in any way we can but obviously the parties have to come together as well and bring this about .

"We know the steps that have to be taken - it is entirely feasible that that can be done early."

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