Category: Archive

IRA arms move?

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Jack Holland and Chris Thornton

BELFAST — Sinn Fein leaders Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness have revived hopes that a move by the IRA on decommissioning is imminent after they held a one-day series of meetings on Tuesday with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and British Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid.

The visits, all at Sinn Fein’s request, came as it seemed that Northern Ireland’s power-sharing government was moving closer to collapse following Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble’s confirmation that his three remaining Ministers will resign in protest at the lack of IRA decommissioning.

Trimble, whose resignation as first minister during the summer started the slide toward the present crisis, made the announcement after he failed to win a vote in the Stormont Assembly to push Sinn Fein out of government. However, Trimble was careful to delay the announcement of possible resignations until next Monday, Oct. 15. In practice, this would allow him to further postpone the threatened resignations for several days, allowing the IRA time to begin decommissioning.

The resignations, which would be followed by the departure of the two ministers from the Rev. Ian Paisley’s Democratic Unionist Party, would leave only nationalists in power. Technically, the ruling Executive could continue without unionists, but that would be politically unstable.

An informed source said that the Tuesday meetings meant that “the barometer of optimism has bounced up.”

Sign up to The Irish Echo Newsletter

A well-placed security source in Belfast said that the meetings most likely mean that Sinn Fein has told London, Dublin and Belfast that the IRA is ready to begin decommissioning, provided Trimble holds back a while longer. He said that while there is an alternative possibility, that McGuinness and Adams expressed fears that in the event of a shutdown of the assembly and a suspension of the agreement, the IRA’s commitment to the peace process would be threatened. He dismissed this, however.

“After the World Trade Center attack,” said the security source, “there is no way the IRA can go back to war. They can’t attack the best ally that the U.S. has at the moment.”

Trimble said on Monday that “the complete and indefinite suspension” of the Assembly was his goal, but said he would be prepared to return his party to a revived government if there is a start to arms decommissioning.

Adams said after meeting Blair that Sinn Fein was pledged to save the Good Friday agreement.

“We are not walking away from this process,” he said.

The UUP leader said the IRA could decommission “tomorrow, they could do it next month. If they want to wait until next year that is their choice.” He warned: “There is no longer sufficient confidence within the unionist community to sustain this process without actual decommissioning by republicans.”

U.S. pressure has been an important factor in the belief that the IRA will now put some of its weapons beyond use. American officials have continued to underline their displeasure at the arrest of three republicans in Colombia after alleged contact with Marxist guerillas FARC. Sinn Fein has said it has no current associations with the men, although a campaign to return them to Ireland was launched at the party’s Ard Fheis in Dublin two weeks ago.

In a statement, Martin McGuinness, Sinn Fein’s chief negotiator and the education minister at Stormont, said he would like to see a start to decommissioning soon. It is widely believed that decommissioning would help catch votes for Sinn Fein ahead of the Republic’s general election, which is expected next spring.

However, the IRA is unlikely to begin putting its weapons beyond use at any stage where it appears they are responding to unionist pressure. A delay by Trimble would give them time to move. Speculation is that they impressed this upon Blair on Tuesday.

Other Articles You Might Like

Sign up to our Daily Newsletter

Click to access the login or register cheese