Northern Ireland

DUP call for PSNI to answer questions over gun-running claims

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Media captionArlene Foster said she wanted to know what the PSNI are going to do about the claims

The DUP's Arlene Foster has called on police to reveal if they were aware of claims that a senior member of Sinn Féin was involved in buying and smuggling weapons from America.

The accusation was made by gun-runner Mike Logan in a BBC NI Spotlight investigation.

He claimed the man who ordered the guns was Sean 'Spike' Murray, a senior party strategist.

Mr Murray described the allegation as "without foundation".

Fatal attack

Mr Logan claimed on the programme that Mr Murray had been his main contact in Belfast and had been involved in ordering hundreds of guns over a five-year period while talks on decommissioning were going on.

Speaking publicly for the first time, Mr Logan told Spotlight the weapons were smuggled inside toys and were believed to have been used in at least one fatal attack in Northern Ireland.

He was given immunity from prosecution by the US authorities a decade ago in return for information.

In a statement, Mr Murray told the programme he had never been questioned about the smuggling claims by detectives and that he was committed to peace.

"The regurgitation of these allegations will not deflect me, as intended, from pursuing my political aspirations through my work either in the assembly or at community level on a daily basis," the statement said.

Image caption Mike Logan made the claims on the BBC NI's Spotlight programme

"My focus was and remains on helping, in whatever way possible, to assist in the consolidation of our peace and political processes."

Mr Logan said the message was different during the 90s.

"When I first started, I think the first ceasefire was going on. I was told to ignore any talk about that. And then the second the peace ceasefire came about, I was told to ignore that and then the decommissioning process started and I was just told to ignore any headlines that I was reading about that and keep sending the guns," he told Spotlight.

Ms Foster said: "It doesn't really matter whether Sinn Féin dismiss the claims from last night's programme. What we want to know now is whether the police were made aware of the information that the individual (Mike Logan) from America gave last night and if they weren't aware, why were they not aware."

The minister and her DUP colleague, Upper Bann MP David Simpson, met senior PSNI officers to discuss the allegations on Wednesday afternoon.

In a party statement, the pair said: "We received a clear assurance from the PSNI that they would be investigating all the evidence in relation to this case, including the content of the Spotlight programme."

Crucial time

The smuggling highlighted in the programme took place before the IRA decommissioned its arms.

The 1990s were a crucial time for Northern Ireland's peace process.

The IRA announced ceasefires and the Good Friday Agreement was signed.

In 1999, four people were arrested in Florida and subsequently convicted of gun-running.

Mr Logan's claims suggest the operation was much bigger - he was involved in buying 400 guns in the five years before their arrests.

The police and intelligence services believe old IRA weapons have been used in attacks by dissident republican in recent years.