11 April 2002 Edition
Historic move by IRA leadership
The IRA confirmed on Monday 8 April that it has, unilaterally, placed a second tranche of weapons beyond use as part of its ongoing commitment to the Good Friday Agreement and in order to stabilise the peace process. The statement was backed up by General John de Chastelain, head of the decommissioning body.
Speaking at a press conference in Belfast on Monday, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP, accompanied by Louth County Councillor Arthur Morgan and Upper Bann Assembly member Dara O'Hagan welcomed the IRA's statement. It was, he said, "further evidence of the IRA's commitment to the peace process".
However, he also acknowledged the uncertainty and genuine anguish the move would create within parts of the republican community. "No one should underestimate the difficulties this causes for many republicans," he said. "This includes many, many republicans and nationalists who have never been near guns and who never want to see guns used again. For them this is another huge move by the IRA leadership."
Against a backdrop of criticism from various anti-Agreement unionists - including those still clinging to the hope that the blame for the break-in at Castlereagh can be pinned on republicans - Adams pointed out that the so-called republican 'shopping list' to which they habitually refer is in reality simply a reiteration of the British government's obligations under the Good Friday Agreement.
The IRA's initiative, he said, should be set against the multiple failures in the implementation of the Agreement, principally by the British government.
"The Army statement makes it clear that this is a unilateral initiative; that it is a leadership initiative and that it is taken at a time when others are not fulfilling their obligations," he said. "In fact, it makes the point that it is precisely because of this, and because it wishes the peace process to be stabilised, that it has moved once again.
"It is obvious to anyone interested in implementing the Good Friday Agreement that on policing, on demilitarisation, human rights, equality and justice there remain significant gaps between what was agreed over four years ago in the Good Friday Agreement and what has been delivered so far.
"These difficulties can be traced back to the behaviour and attitude of those within the British system, the securocrats and bureaucrats, who refuse to accept the imperatives of making peace.
"The failure of the British government to face down these people has given encouragement to their efforts. There are sections of unionism which also oppose change. All of this is unacceptable and must stop.
"The IRA is leading by example. If this peace process is to succeed others, but especially the British government, have to accept responsibility for these difficulties and move to curb the dangerous and damaging actions of those over whom they have influence and control. It is time to see real progress being made on all of these outstanding issues.
"We have only to look at the Middle East to see that the imperative of peacemaking has to prevail".
Brian Cowen, 26-County Minister for Foreign Affairs, displayed signs of exasperation with the cynicism of Jeffrey Donaldson, Martin Smyth, David Burnside and their cohorts. "Regrettably there was, as ever, a queue of those ready to diminish this achievement and to question the motivation of those who brought it about," he said. "Their carping will not distract us from acknowledging the scale of what we have achieved together."
Dismissing the claims of those unionists deriding the IRA's move as part of a trade-off with the British government or an attempt to boost Sinn Féin's election prospects in the 26 Counties, Gerry Adams said it is "time for an end to meanness. It is time for an end to mean spiritedness. It is time for an end to the nay-sayers and begrudgery."
Monday 8 April 2002
"The leadership of Óglaigh na h-Éireann has taken another initiative to put arms beyond use.
This follows detailed discussions between our representative and the IICD (Independent International Commission on Decommissioning).
This initiative is unilateral at a time when there are those who are not fulfilling their obligations.
It could be argued that the IRA should not take such an initiative, but it is precisely because of this that an initiative has been undertaken, so the peace process can be stabilised, sustained and strengthened.
We fully appreciate the difficulties this causes for republicans, however the IRA is a highly disciplined and committed organisation.
This is a leadership initiative. We are relying on the discipline and commitment of our support base and our Volunteers. We remain committed to achieving our republican objectives.
However, the securing of a democratic peace settlement is not solely a task for Irish republicans and we are mindful of the primary obligation of the British government and of the Unionist leadership.
This process can work if there is the political will to make it succeed; the IRA has once again demonstrated that will."
Irish Republican Publicity Bureau
IICD Statement to John Reid and John O'Donoghue
Monday 8 April
1. "We wish to inform you that we have witnessed an event in which the IRA leadership has put a varied and substantial quantity of ammunition, arms and exploisive material beyond use. In accordance with the governments' Scheme and Regulations, we have taken an inventory of the arms concerned, which we will provide to the two governments when our task is completed.
2. As before, we have agreed to the IRA's condition of confidentiality regarding details of this event, as provided for in the same Scheme and Regulations.
3. We will continue our discussions with the IRA representative in the pursuit of our remit. We will also continue our discussions with the loyalist paramilitary groups."
John de Chastelain