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IRA weapons move called ‘substantial’

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Anne Cadwallader

BELFAST — The IRA’S second act of putting its weapons “beyond use” has been broadly welcomed by all pro-Good Friday agreement political parties in Ireland, although the Rev. Ian Paisley’s anti-agreement DUP and sections of the Ulster Unionist Party remained skeptical.

It’s believed the number of arms decommissioned this time was significantly more than the IRA put beyond use when it first decommissioned, more than five months ago. The decommissioning body said the number and nature of arms involved was “varied” and “substantial.”

The high level of republican rank-and-file concern at any decommissioning was evident in the IRA’s statement on Monday, which said its move would cause “difficulties” for republicans, while appealing for discipline.

The move, which was announced Monday and likely took place several days earlier, came within days of a second leading republican’s arrest and questioning in the continuing police investigation into the theft of top-secret files from Castlereagh security complex in East Belfast.

Former hunger striker and prison leader Ray McCartney was arrested at his home in Derry and taken for questioning about the raid. He was released later in the day and has since denied any involvement in the affair, which republicans blame on British secret intelligence agents.

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The police are still adamant that the IRA infiltrated the complex and described his detention as a major step forward. Others, including unionists and the Northern Secretary, are declining to comment until the police produce evidence.

Responding to the IRA’s move on decommissioning, the Sinn Fein president, Gerry Adams, said it was “further evidence of the IRA’s commitment to the peace process.”

“No one should underestimate the difficulties this causes for many republicans,” he said. “This includes many, many republicans and nationalists who have never been near guns and who never want to see guns used again. For them, this is another huge move by the IRA leadership.

“It is time for an end to meanness. It is time for an end to mean spiritedness. It is time for an end to the nay-sayers and begrudgery.”

The Ulster Unionist Party leader, David Trimble, said the second decommissioning move by the IRA was significant. He challenged his critics on the anti-agreement wing of his party to respond, saying they had predicted this day would never come. He also said the DUP “looked foolish” in light of the development.

The taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, who is expected to announce the date of the Republic’s general election this week, welcomed the move, describing it as a significant development and saying he is “very pleased.”

“This development should offer reassurance that the issue of illegal arms can be resolved under the auspices of the commission in a satisfactory way,” he said. “I hope that this will be recognized and accepted on all sides.

“I know that the issue of decommissioning is an extremely difficult one within the Republican movement. But today’s announcement is further evidence that they realise this must be pursued if confidence and trust and genuine partnership are to maintained and strengthened.

In the statement saying the move was “unilateral,” the IRA also said: “It could be argued that the IRA should not take such an initiative, but it is precisely because of this that an initiative has been undertaken so that the peace process can be stabilized, sustained and strengthened.”

The Independent International Commission on Decommissioning, headed by Canadian general John de Chastelain, confirmed it had “witnessed an event in which the IRA leadership has put a varied and substantial quantity of ammunition, arms and explosive material beyond use.”

Although the IICD chief would not give a precise time and location, he said the event took place “very recently.” He also pledged to continue working with loyalist paramilitaries in a bid to secure their decommissioning but was unable to report any major progress, although there is no sign at all of any movement from either the UDA or UVF.

Among the dissenters was Republican Sinn Fein, whose leader, Ruairi O Bradaigh, said the move copperfastens English rule in Ireland.

“To date no arms held by British-backed loyalists have been destroyed, although these are continually in use against nationalists,” he said. “Nor have arms in possession of the British forces themselves been verifiably decommissioned. In time to come those who so collaborate with the British forces of occupation will be reviled by their people as are the quislings and traitors of World War II.”

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