Muted unionist reaction to IRA disarmament in Northern Ireland – ISN

DERRY — Northern Ireland’s largest pro-British unionist party reacted sceptically to an announcement on Monday that the Irish Republican Army (IRA) had destroyed all of its weapons.

Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Ian Paisley said there was no real verification of IRA decommissioning in Monday’s announcement, adding it showed the duplicity and dishonesty of the British and Irish governments as well as of the IRA.

Paisley said the Commission had simply taken the IRA’s word at face value. “Not one iota was given to verify that assurance,” he said.

At a news conference earlier Monday, the head of the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning (IICD) said the IRA has completed its disarmament.

Canadian general John de Chastelain, along with two independent witnesses, Catholic priest Father Alec Reid and Methodist Rev. Harold Good, said the decommissioning body had reported to the Irish and British governments that it had observed and verified events to put beyond use all of the arms in the IRA’s possession.

The IRA itself released a statement to Irish state broadcaster RTÉ saying it had completely disarmed.

However, DUP Westminster Minister of Parliament Gregory Campbell told ISN Security Watch that “even today we lack clarity. No one is saying how much has been decommissioned, we were not told how it was done, many questions remain unanswered.”

The IRA move and the announcement by the IICD have been widely praised by the Irish and British governments and by Irish nationalist parties in Northern Ireland.

In recent days, speculation had been growing that an announcement on IRA disarming, or decommissioning, was imminent.

Pressure now will grow on unionist parties to resume negotiations with Sinn Féin to restore a devolved assembly and legislature to Northern Ireland, a core element of the 1998 peace agreement. These institutions were suspended in 2002 due to allegations of IRA intelligence gathering in government buildings.

Campbell said an unspecified amount of time will be needed before devolution can recur. He said that “we have to see that they (Sinn Fein) are democrats, not temporary democrats”.

Referring to the IRA’s three previous weapons decommissioning efforts and its involvement in crime, as well as the lack of transparency in its disarmament, he said: “We are left with only one proviso: the passage of time. We can only know for sure by a substantial period of inactivity on the part of the IRA.”

When asked how long this period would be, Campbell was non-committal, saying “it will be a realistic timeframe.”

“We will not specify at the moment. Any IRA member could usurp such a process by merely waiting until after the time-period had lapsed to re-engage in illegal activity.”

Two months ago, the IRA declared an end to its almost 40-year campaign against British rule in Northern Ireland and pledged to disarm. The IRA first declared a cease-fire in 1994, and its political wing Sinn Fein enthusiastically supported the Irish peace process and the 1998 peace Agreement.

The statement two months ago and the announcement on Monday came after months of political turmoil in Northern Ireland.

Last December, an attempt to broker a power-sharing deal collapsed when the DUP asked that IRA disarmament be photographed, which the IRA and Sinn Fein would not consent to.

This criterion has not been met by this process. Days later, a multimillion dollar bank heist in Belfast was blamed on the IRA, bringing the organization and Sinn Fein into political disrepute.

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said Paisley and the DUP should be given time and space to react to the IRA decommissioning.

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