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

[Irish Republican News]

Unionists have called for an “extensive testing period” following the announcement this week that the arms of the Provisional IRA have been totally and unilaterally destroyed.

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has now called on both governments to move quickly to implement the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. However, DUP leader Ian Paisley initially refused to accept the word of the specially-constituted arms commission and two independent clergymen witnesses, describing them as “IRA appointees”.

After formally ending its armed campaign on July 28, it was confirmed this week that the IRA had last week completed the process of putting all its weapons beyond use.

In a highly sceptical response, the DUP have now said the IRA must now be seen to “end criminality” before the party will enter any talks with Sinn Féin.

Mr Adams said unionists would need time to absorb the “completeness” of the IRA’s disarmament, announced by the head of the arms decommissioning body. However, he said it was now up to both governments to press on.

Ian Paisley’s party has been sharply criticised by the rival unionist UUP for questioning the independence of the two churchmen who witnessed the weapons decommissioning.

Apparently backtracking this week, the party held two hours of “frank” talks with the pair on Thursday. DUP Upper Bann MP David Simpson, who attended the meeting, said his party was not questioning the integrity of the two churchmen.

“No-one is disputing that the two men are faithfully reporting what they saw. The question is did they see it all?” he said.

The party, however, has not backed down on its refusal to hold talks with Sinn Féin, declaring that “decommissioning is only one element of what is required from the IRA”.

The DUP’s Willy McCrea said on Friday his party would not “bestow credibility on Sinn Féin/IRA when it’s up to its neck in criminality”.

On the other side of the fence, hardline republicans have been harshly critical of the arms move.

Republican Sinn Féin described the action as as act of “treachery” which contravened IRA General Order No 11. Party leader Ruairi O Bradaigh said: “With the destruction of their own arms the Provisional IRA is no longer an army and should dissolve immediately and stop the pretence.”

Sinn Féin has pressed the British and Irish governments to take quick advantage of the dramatic development, particularly calling for movement on prisoners and Northern representation in the 26-County parliament.

Gerry Adams urged British Prime Minister Tony Blair and 26-County Taoiseach Bertie Ahern to “move speedily to fulfilling their commitments and injecting momentum into the political process”.

“The goal should be the re-establishment of the Executive as quickly as possible and before British direct rule ministers take more decisions on health and education and transport and investment which will adversely affect the people of the north,” he added.

In Dublin, the arms move was strongly welcomed by Bertie Ahern. In a debate at the Dail this week, Mr Ahern it was important now to move the peace process forward because it would be “unconscionable and unacceptable to fall back or to accept a political stalemate”.

Mr Ahern said there were those who remained unconvinced about the decommissioning. “I can understand that it will take some time for the full consequences of an ending of the IRA campaign and the decommissioning of all their weapons to be fully comprehended. But it is important also to begin to move on.”

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© 2005 Irish Republican News