Tuesday, September 27, 2005


Ciarán Barnes:

Decommissioning chief General John de Chastelain will today announce that the IRA has put its arms beyond use.

The announcement that the general and two independent witnesses have seen the disposal of the weapons will change the political landscape. It will clear the way for the British and Irish governments to restore devolved government.

Pressure will now mount on the Democratic Unionist Party to enter talks with Sinn Féin to get the political institutions and cross-Border bodies up and running.

General John de Chastelain, head of the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning, is expected to give a news conference today with two independent witnesses saying that he is satisfied that the process has been carried out and completed.

The clergymen who witnessed the process were the Catholic priest Alex Reid and Harold Good, former president of the Methodist Church of Ireland.

Statements are also expected today from the IRA, the British and Irish governments, and Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams.

Speaking at an Irish unification rally in Dublin on Saturday, Mr Adams urged republicans and unionists to work together.

“I believe that the IRA in the near future is going to honour its commitment to put its weapons beyond use.

“Such an announcement will have a huge impact on the political process.

“I know it will be difficult for many republicans. There will be some who are concerned about the future.

“But I believe that we need to face up to this opportunity in a positive mood,” he said.

Mr Adams told the rally that the move would be a huge sea change not just for republicans but for the entire island.

The west Belfast MP added: “When the IRA delivers, when our opponents and our enemies no longer have the IRA to use as an excuse, what are they going to do?”

Mr Adams’ comments received a warm response from foreign affairs minister Dermot Ahern and secretary of state Peter Hain.

Mr Ahern said he was confident the IRA would fully decommission its arsenal.

He said the focus would now shift on loyalist paramilitaries and predicted the DUP and other unionist parties would not be “dancing in the aisles” at news of IRA decommissioning.

Mr Hain warned that any decommissioning move must be credible enough to convince unionists.

He said that, once unionists knew decommissioning was credible, moves could be made towards restoring devolved government in the North.

However, DUP leader Ian Paisley accused the British government of making a “secret deal” with the IRA that excluded the need for an arms witness acceptable to unionists.

He said the IRA “called the shots” on decommissioning by refusing to allow photographic evidence of weapons and explosives being destroyed.

Ulster Unionist Party leader Reg Empey welcomed news of IRA decommissioning but said time would be needed to assess the validity of any such move.

In other words, the unionists will continue to refuse to deal with Sinn Fein.

Disarming is a brave but dangerous move

IRA move means no more excuses


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