By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN – The IRA plan sent to General John de Chastelain’s decommissioning body to put arms “completely and verifiably beyond use,” has been described by Taoiseach Bertie Ahern as “a development of historic importance”.
“It represents a major step towards a resolution of the arms issue and also gives us a way of moving towards full implementation of the Good Friday agreement,” Ahern said.
He called on the political parties in Northern Ireland to “reflect carefully on the significance of it”.
In a report to the two governments on Monday, the decommissioning body revealed that the IRA representative had put forward the plan but did not give details or a time-scale.
Ahern said the statement was “clearly” enough for the peace process to continue and for progress to be made on other outstanding issues like policing, demilitarization and the stability of the institutions.
Sign up to The Irish Echo Newsletter
“Taken on its merits, the statement is a very, very significant historic statement.”
The Taoiseach said the commission had been working on the arms decommissioning issue for years.
“I think they always have been determined that they would only issue positive statements when they believed there were significant and substantive moves.
“In their wording today they are very clear. They say that in their negotiations with the IRA representative that they have proposed a method for putting arms completely and verifiably beyond use and this proposal meets the commission’s remit in accordance with the Governments’ schemes and regulations.
“They believe that this starts a process that will put arms completely and verifiably beyond use. So I think that fulfills the criteria that we have tried to work on on this back since the Spring of 1995.”
Ahern said he regarded the word of de Chastelain as the final one.
He said unionist and other politicians “would want to see that the process commences.”
“The process for that is between the General (de Chastelain) and the IRA representative.
“I think the fact the international commission have issued this statement today speaks for itself. It is a historic breakthrough.
“Other things have to happen out of it admittedly, but I would be confident that that will happen.”
Ahern said it now was very important to ensure the institutions got back to normal and resumed work with David Trimble as first minister and Seamus Mallon as his deputy and the ban on Sinn Fein ministers attending meetings of cross-border bodies lifted.