‘Official IRA’ arms report denied
‘Official IRA’ arms report denied

The organisation once known as the ‘Official IRA’ has begun decommissioning talks with the IICD arms body, it has been claimed.

Although the group, which split from the Provisional IRA in 1970, has been on ceasefire for more than 37 years, it never formally handed over its weapons.

While the group called an end to their armed struggle in 1972, the ‘Officials’ are said to have stored a number of rifles and handguns.

The remnants of the group, once linked to the small Workers Party (formerly ‘Official Sinn Fein’) has sporadically used weapons during internal republican disputes or for so-called punishment attacks. Some of these have latterly described themselves as members of the ‘Official Republican Movement’.

In 1997, it was blamed for shooting two Sinn Fein members during a dispute with the Provisional IRA in Newry. Local disputes between criminal elements claiming the mantle of the organisation and the Provisional IRA took place intermittently in Belfast in recent years.

In October 2005 the organisation’s former leader, Sean Garland, was arrested at a Workers Party conference in Belfast after the FBI asked for his extradition to the US for questioning about a multimillion-dollar international counterfeiting operation.

Garland, who is 75 years of age, was released on bail for medical treatment in the 26 Counties but failed to reappear in court.

The reported decision to begin talks with the IICD has caused some surprise, as the group had never been mentioned in any of the commission’s 19 reports. It is widely considered to have ceased to exist in any meaningful sense.

An IICD spokesman last night refused to confirm or deny that the commission was in discussions with the ‘Official IRA’.

“IICD doesn’t comment on its work,” he said. “However, the IICD is to open to all organisations on ceasefire until the end of its mandate next February.”

Republican sources have alleged that ‘Official IRA’ decommissioning is spurious and part of a media campaign to encourage other arms groups to decommission before the February ‘deadline’.

The Irish National Liberation Army (INLA), which has now ended its armed campaign according to a statement on Sunday, is currently under intense pressure to hand in its weaponry to the arms body.

John Lowry of the Workers Party, which had links to the Official IRA, said he was unaware of any decommissioning talks.

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