“I accept the IRA has changed in the last few years,” he said.
“But rather than believing that it has gone away entirely, I suspect that it may actually be in a form of suspended animation – a hibernation.”
Mr. Empey warned that the “potential” of the IRA will continue to exist as long as the organization exists.
“The IRA needs to disappear altogether, disband, dismantle all of its structures,” he said.
“That, and that alone, would be the clearest possible sign to unionism that we really are living in a new political dispensation.”
SDLP Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie became the first nationalist politician to address an Ulster Unionist conference during the UUP’s gathering.
She said she felt comfortable to be there and thanked Mr. Empey and Michael McGimpsey for being the only ministers to support her in recent rows with Sinn F