Category: Archive

Arms extended

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Jack Holland

The British government has extended the deadline for decommissioning of paramilitary weapons by eight months. Until Tuesday, when the extension was made, the decommissioning body, chaired by General John de Chastelain and set up as part of the Good Friday agreement, had only until June this year to complete its work. So far, apart from a small number of weapons handed over by the Loyalist Volunteer Force in December 1998, none of the paramilitary organizations have begun to decommission their weapons. Come June, the decommissioning body faced the prospect of having to wind up its efforts, as its remit would have by then have expired.

However, yesterday an order in council was laid before the British House of Commons "extending the immunities" attached to the legislation regarding the work of the decommissioning commission. The order was made under the Northern Ireland Arms Decommissioning Act 1997. It was announced that the immunities will be extended until February 2002, meaning in effect that the decommissioning body can continue meeting with the various paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland in the hope of making progress toward its goal.

The move came in the wake of the IRA’s recent announcement that it had reestablished contact with the commission. This was followed by a statement from the commission saying that a "face to face meeting" had taken place with the IRA’s representative, which it said was "a sign of good faith." As a result, it said, "it was hopeful progress could be made."

The order to extend the decommissioning deadline has been welcomed by David Trimble, the first minister of the Executive government and leader of the Ulster Unionist Party. Pro-agreement parties are expected to embrace the extension.

This development is further indication that both the Irish and British governments are determined to hold things together until after the next general election in Britain, expected either in May or June. It came just after it was revealed that a group of wanted a IRA men have been allowed to return to Northern Ireland without fear of prosecution. Both governments deny that there is any "choreographing" involved. They say it is an indication that all the parties to the agreement believe that real progress will be made after the elections.

Follow us on social media

Keep up to date with the latest news with The Irish Echo

Other Articles You Might Like

Sign up to our Daily Newsletter

Click to access the login or register cheese