Category: Archive

‘We are satisfied’

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

Canadian General John de Chastelain told a packed news conference on Monday that “very large quantities of arms, which we believe include all the arms in the IRA’s possession” were put beyond use.
De Chastelain said he had been provided with estimates of the IRA’s weaponry by security sources in Britain and Ireland in 2004. What he had witnessed being destroyed corresponded to that list, he said.
British and Irish security services estimate the IRA arsenal included: 588 AK-47 high-velocity assault rifles; 17 Soviet-made Duska heavy machine guns capable of shooting down helicopters; 11 rocket propelled grenade launchers; between two and four tons of high-explosive Czech-made Semtex; nine surface-to-air missiles (SAMs); flame-throwers; more than 100 hand grenades; assorted guns including machine-guns, hand-guns, pistols and Webley revolvers.
“We are satisfied the arms decommissioned represent the totality,” said de Chastelain, saying the haul destroyed included thousands of rounds of assorted ammunition, rifles, machine guns, mortars, missiles, handguns, explosive substances and other arms.
De Chastelain told the journalist gathered in the ballroom of a North Down hotel that some of the items dated back to the 1920s and others had been manufactured as recently as the 1990s, after the 1994 IRA ceasefire.
De Chastelain was unable, to say, however, if any were in the cache imported from Florida.
Fr. Alec Reid, one of two independent church witnesses, said he believed “without a shadow of a doubt” or any qualms whatsoever that the IRA had decommissioned all its weapons. They do not play games, he said.
Reid, the Redemptorist priest who kick-started the peace process by interceding between Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams and SDLP leader John Hume, said he believed he had a better knowledge than anyone living, outside the IRA, of the mindset of its members, having met many from the top to the bottom thousands of times.
The priest said he profoundly disagreed with all historic and modern forms of Irish republican violence, dating back to the 1798 rebellion and the Easter 1916 Rising, yet he had no doubt whatsoever that the IRA had done all it could to track down and decommission every one of its weapons.
De Chastelain said he had personally handled every single piece of weaponry destroyed and examined them, one by one, to ensure they could never be used again.
He said the weapons included all the categories described in the estimates by both the British and Irish security forces, he said, based upon their knowledge of shipments to Ireland from Libya and the U.S.
“The Commission has determined the IRA has met its commitment to put all its arms beyond use in a manner called for by [British] legislation,” he said, adding that it remained to address the issue of loyalist arms.
In a remarkably strong contribution, the former president of the Methodist Church in Ireland, the Rev. Harold Good — the second of the two churchmen who witnessed the process — said he was utterly certain about the accuracy of de Chastelain’s report.
“We have spent many long days watching the meticulous and painstaking way in which General de Chastelain went about his task of decommissioning huge amounts of explosives, arms and ammunition,” said Good.
Witnessing the process, on a minute-by-minute basis, he said, gave the two independent clergy witness “clear and incontrovertible evidence that beyond any shadow of doubt the arms of the IRA have now been decommissioned.”
One of his de Chastelain’s fellow commissioners U.S. envoy Andrew Sens supported the general in his insistence on what they had seen. To doubters, he said: “You can take their [the IRA] word for it, our word for it and the word of the two witnesses, but there is an element of trust in this.”

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