DERRY — The three Irish Republican Army (IRA) men who re-emerged in Ireland eight months after disappearing from Colombia, where they were due to face 17 years in prison, remain missing in Ireland. The whereabouts of Niall Connolly, James Monaghan, and Martin McCauley – dubbed “The Colombian Three” – are still unknown six days after they revealed their return to an Irish television station. The men were sentenced to 17 years in prison in Colombia, convicted after an initial acquittal was overturned of training leftist rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and of travelling on false passports. The Colombian vice-president and unionist parties in Northern Ireland have called for the men to be extradited to Colombia to face their sentences.
DERRY — The British government has announced an overhaul of its military and security structure in Northern Ireland, pledging to halve its troops to just over 5,000, end army support for the police, and close down 26 of 40 army sites in the region. The move follows an announcement last week by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) that it “formally ordered an end to the armed campaign” against British control of Northern Ireland. On Tuesday, Peter Hain, the Northern Ireland Secretary of State, said the British government’s pledged would be “achievable within two years” provided the “enabling environment is established and maintained.”
BELFAST — In what is being described as a historic move, the Irish Republican Army (IRA) on Thursday announced an end its armed campaign to end British rule in Northern Ireland. The announcement was read by a former IRA prisoner, and stated “All IRA units have been ordered to dump arms. All Volunteers have been instructed to assist the development of purely political and democratic programs through exclusively peaceful means. Volunteers must not engage in any other activities whatsoever.” The statement called for two independent witnesses – a Catholic and Protestant clergyman – to act as independent witnesses to the destruction or “decommissioning” of the IRA’s arsenal.
DERRY — Eighty police were injured last night as violence erupted in a Catholic-nationalist area of north Belfast after a day of Protestant Orange Order parades throughout Northern Ireland. Tensions were high in the run-up to the parade through the mainly nationalist Ardoyne area of north Belfast. While the morning parade passed off peacefully, the return of the Orangemen through the area on Tuesday evening proved troublesome. Last year, British Army units were attacked by nationalist rioters alleging a heavy-handed response to peaceful protests at the Orange Order march through the Ardoyne.
DERRY — The Irish Republican Army (IRA) on Thursday said it was considering Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams’ request to give up its armed struggle and adopt a peaceful, democratic political campaign to end British rule in Northern Ireland. The paramilitary organization said it was giving “due consideration” to Adams’ request, adding that a definitive response would be given “in due course.” The leader of Sinn Féin, the political party linked to the IRA, welcomed the paramilitary group’s pledge to address his appeal, and responded to critics of the speech, saying that it was “a genuine attempt to drive the peace process forward.” While some welcomed Adams’ statement as significant, others said it was a disingenuous campaign ploy.
DERRY — Northern Ireland Secretary of State Paul Murphy told the British House of Commons on Tuesday that he would extend sanctions against Sinn Féin, the political party linked to the Irish Republican Army (IRA), for a year. Murphy said Sinn Féin’s Northern Ireland Assembly grant, worth some £120,000 (about €173,000), would be suspended for an additional 12 months. The decision comes in the wake of the latest report from the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) accusing the IRA of being behind the theft of around €33 million from a Belfast bank in December. The IMC recommended imposing financial penalties on Sinn Féin. The commission was set up by the Irish and British governments to monitor paramilitary activity. An earlier IMC report, which detailed IRA involvement in smuggling and smaller robberies, led to the initial application of the sanctions.
DERRY — The Irish Republican Army (IRA) announced on Thursday that it would withdraw the offer to allow its weapons to be destroyed and to end activities that might endanger the 1998 peace agreement. “We are taking our proposals off the table,” the group in a statement issued through the IRA newspaper, An Phoblacht. The announcement follows weeks of turmoil after a power-sharing deal offered by the British and Irish governments in December fell through due to disagreement over how to verify the destruction of IRA weaponry. The crisis deepened with the December robbery of a Belfast bank, in which the equivalent of €31.3 million was stolen. Both governments, backed by police and intelligence experts, have stated they believe the IRA carried out the raid.
DERRY — In its first official statement since the head of Northern Ireland’s police accused them of stealing £26.5 million (nearly €38 million) from a Belfast bank, the Irish Republican Army (IRA) last night denied that it took the money. The denial comes amid a growing political crisis in Northern Ireland. The failure by Sinn Féin, the party linked to the IRA, and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), to forge a deal to restore the devolved government to Belfast has been compounded by the widespread belief that the IRA planned the heist, which is thought to be the largest in European history. Speaking at Westminster today, British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Paul Murphy described the robbery as a violation of the 1998 peace agreement. On 7 January, Hugh Orde, the head of Northern Ireland’s police said he believed that the IRA had carried out the robbery. He was backed by the Irish and British governments, as well as the other political parties in Northern Ireland, including the nationalist Social, Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP).