Irish Republican News · October 1, 2005
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
IRISH REPUBLICAN NEWS: Historic announcements as IRA destroy weapons
Historic announcements as IRA destroy weapons

General John de Chastelain, head of the arms decommissioning body, confirmed before the world’s media at the Culloden Hotel in Belfast, the Provisional IRA had put all of its weapons beyond use.

According to the commission, this includes a full range of ammunition, rifles, machine guns, mortars, missiles, handguns, explosives and explosive substances.

He said: “Very large quantities of arms, which we believe include all the arms in the IRA’s possession, have been put beyond use.”

The commission said it had been provided with estimates last year by the British and Irish security forces of what the IRA arsenal was believed to include.

“Our new inventory is consistent with these estimates and we are satisfied that the arms decommissioned represent the totality of the IRA’s arsenal,” General de Chastelain said.

Significantly, General de Chastelain said it remained for his commission to address the issue of unionist arms, and he asked everyone with influence to use it to that end.

The Reverend Harold Good, a former president of the Methodist Church in Ireland and one of two churchmen who witnessed the process, told the press conference he was utterly certain about the accuracy of General 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,” he said.

Rev Good said witnessing the process on a minute-by-minute basis had given the witnesses incontrovertible evidence “that beyond any shadow of doubt the arms of the IRA have now been decommissioned”.

The inventories of the weapons put beyond use have been delivered to the British and Irish governments. However, it appears that no photographs were taken of the decommissioning process, a previous demand of the DUP.

General de Chastelain said he and his fellow commissioners, Andrew Sens and Brigadier Tauno Nieminen, had been working long hours on decommissioning. He said for several days they had been working from 6am until late at night and finished their work on Saturday.

Mr Sens 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. We are satisfied they have put their weapons beyond use for the reasons the general has described.”

Fr Reid said that he and Rev Good had asked questions throughout.

“They would explain what they were doing with the weapon and how they were dismantling it, how old the weapon was in their estimation and whether it was operational or not and they would tell us anything.

“There was no question of us not seeing everything or being able to ask everything we wanted about decommissioning and the effects. We watched the whole thing.”

Involved with the Redemptorist Peace Ministry, Fr Reid has long been a confidante of republicans and helped bring about talks between Sinn Féin and the SDLP in the late 1980s.

Fr Reid said his knowledge of the workings of the IRA and Sinn Féin meant he did not have “the slightest doubt” the IRA had “completely decommissioned”.

“I completely disagree with the whole tradition of physical force in Ireland - it is always a political mistake - 1916 and all the rest.

“I don’t belong to the republican community and don’t think anyone in history has dealt as much with republicans as I have. I have worked with them for 35 years... And I know them well enough to know they don’t play games. They say yes or no.”

IRA STATEMENT

Following the conference, in what some have suggested could be the organisation’s last statement, the Provisional IRA said: “The leadership of Oglaigh na hEireann announced on July 28 that we had authorized our representative to engage with the IICD to complete the process of verifiably putting arms beyond use.

“The IRA leadership can now confirm that the process of putting arms beyond use has been completed.” The statement was signed by P. O’Neill.

In prepared remarks, Gerry Adams called on the Irish and British governments to respond in a “focused, decisive and creative” way to the completion of the decommissioning process by the IRA.

Mr Adams told a Belfast press conference that everyone needs to “think beyond the moment” in recognising the courage of the IRA move.

Commending the IRA leadership for its action, Mr Adams admitted the announcement would be difficult for republicans.

“This was a bold and brave leap. But all of us need to think beyond it. We need to think beyond the moment. It is not the leap itself, but the place it takes us all that is important. For this reason the IRA’s courageous decision was the right thing to do.”

“Both governments now need to be focused, decisive and creative. They need to implement the Good Friday Agreement as they have promised to do. There must be progress on equality, policing, human rights, people on the run and victims. There must also be progress on other issues, including prisoners and Northern representation in the Oireachtas.”

Turning to unionists, Mr Adams said they should reflect on the potential and opportunity now opened up by the IRA’s initiative.

“Some unionists may fear that this is a tactical manoeuvre, or an attempt to trap them. It is not,” Mr Adams said.

“Some unionists have expressed fears about a ‘plan b’. There is no ‘plan b’. There is no secret agenda. Unionists say they do not trust republicans. But they do need to trust themselves.

“The IRA’s decision to formally end its armed campaign and today’s announcements are genuine initiatives to revive the peace process by conclusively resolving the concerns of unionists. Issues relating to the IRA, which were presented as difficulties for unionists, have now been definitively dealt with,” Mr Adams said.

© 2005 Irish Republican News