Flash: IRA completes decommissioning
The Provisional IRA today confirmed that all its arms have
been put beyond use, a statement that was verified by the
head of the Independent International Commission on
Speaking at a press conference near Belfast earlier this
afternoon, General John de Chastelain said it was an
"important milestone" for Ireland and said he hoped the
move would prompt other groups to make a similar move.
He said the arms had been inventoried and he believed all
of the IRA's arsenal had now been decommissioned.
The IRA issued a short statement after the press
conference that read: "The leadership of Oglaigh na h-
Eireann announced on July 28 that we had authorised our
representative to engage with the IICD to complete the
process to verifiably put arms beyond use.
"The IRA leadership can now confirm that the process of
putting our arms verifiably beyond use has been
Gen de Chastelain this afternoon revealed that members of
his arms commission had engaged with the IRA
representative over the past number of weeks.
"We have now reported to British and Irish governments
that we have observed and verified events to put beyond
use very large quantities of arms which we believe include
all the arms in the IRA's possession. We have also made
an inventory of them.
"In September 2004 the commission was provided with
estimates of the number and quantity of arms held by the
IRA. These estimates were produced by the security forces
in both jurisdictions and were in agreement. Our new
inventory is consistent with these estimates and we are
satisfied that the arms decommissioned represent the
totality of the IRA's arsenal."
The disarmament was verified by former Methodist
president the Rev Harold Good and Redemptorist priest Fr
Alex Reid, who acted as a go-between in the lead-up to the
1994 IRA ceasefire.
Rev Good told the press conference that witnessing the
process on a minute-by-minute basis gave them clear and
incontrovertible evidence "that beyond any shadow of
doubt the arms of the IRA have now been
He said: "We have spent many long days watching the
meticulous and painstaking way in which General de
Chastelain went about his task of decommissioning huge
amounts of explosives, arms and ammunition."
The Reverend said he was utterly certain about the
accuracy of General de Chastelain's report.
Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams this evening called the
decommissioning of IRA weapons a "defining moment in
the peace process".
Mr Adams said: "We now have an opportunity to build a
future democratically and politically provided all of us put
our shoulders to the wheel."
Speaking on RTE radio, he said: "We have a huge
responsibility to make sure no-one dies, or is injured or
imprisoned for any incident arising out of political
But he warned: "There was a huge onus on the two
governments to deliver on their commitments, and to
create the conditions where unionism faces up to its
Sinn Fein chief negotiator Martin McGuinness hailed the
significance of IRA decommissioning.
The Mid Ulster MP said: "This is a momentous day for
peace. "It is, in my view, a tremendous advance, a historic
advance, for all the people of Ireland.
"It is the turning of the final page in the whole controversy
over IRA arms.
"It has always been used by unionists as an excuse but now
that excuse has effectively been taken away.
"For all of us there is a tremendous, golden opportunity to
Mr McGuinness said: "I hope people will realise the
importance of what has happened and recognise that all of
this was done by people who were part of a military
organisation, who accepted Gerry Adams's appeal that the
way forward now is by purely political means."
However, DUP leader Ian Paisley said today he was not
convinced of the move because there was no "transparent
"We do not know how many guns, the amount of
ammunition and explosives that were decommissioned,
nor were we told how the decomissioning was carried
out," he told a Belfast press conference this afternoon.
"This afternoon the people of northern Ireland watched a
programme which illustrates more than ever the duplicity
and dishonesty of the two governments and the IRA," Mr
Mr Paisley said the announcement by General de
Chastelain did not meet the requirements of proof the
unionist people demanded.
The promises of British Prime Minister Tony Blair that
decommissioning would be transparent and verifiable had
been broken, he said.
Mr Paisley and his party are crucial to any progress with
the political process and he made it clear he was
unimpressed with the announcement as a means of kick-
"Instead of openness there was the cunning tactics of a
cover up, the complete failure from general John de
Chastelain to deal with the vital numbers of
He claimed the independent witnesses were "appointed by
And he said not one iota of evidence had been given to
verify that what the IRA had told the IICD was accurate.
Deputy leader Peter Robinson said the party was
"underwhelmed" by today's events.
The Irish Prime Minister, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern,
described the decommissioning of IRA weapons as a
"landmark development" in the peace process.
Speaking at a press conference in Dublin, Bertie Ahern
said today's announcement by the De Chastelain
decommissioning body that the IRA had disposed of all of
its arms was of "real historic significance".
Mr Ahern told reporters: "The gun of the IRA has been
taken out of Irish politics".
He said: "The weapons of the IRA are gone. And they are
gone in a manner which has been witnessed and verified."
But the Taoiseach said "this doesn't end the peace process,
it is a phase."
Mr Ahern said the next phase was to try to implement the
Good Friday Agreement and set up a working Assembly
and North-South bodies.
He said this could be done in the "months ahead".
The following is the text of a speech by Sinn Fein
President Gerry Adams today in response to today's
I consider this afternoon's announcements to be a very full
and positive response to the appeal that I made in April.
At that time I called upon the IRA to pursue their goals by
purely peaceful and democratic means.
This was in keeping with the position outlined by Sinn
Féin going back over many years.
I want to commend the leadership of the IRA for moving
I know that today's announcement will be difficult for
many republicans. I saw that myself as we watched the
press conference of the IICD and the two independent
This was a bold and brave leap. But all us need to think
beyond it. We need to think beyond the moment. It is not
the leap itself but the place that it takes us all that is
important. For this reason the IRA's courageous decision
was the right thing to do.
Both governments now need to be focused, decisive and
creative. They need to implement the Good Friday
Agreement as they have promised to do. There must be
progress on equality, policing, human rights, people on the
run and victims. There must also be progress on other
issues, including prisoners and Northern representation in
There must be a proper peace dividend to tackle inequality,
discrimination, deprivation and sectarianism wherever it
The political institutions must be restored.
I understand and appreciate that unionists need space to
absorb what all this means. I would ask them to reflect
upon the potential which is now created, and to see it as an
Some unionists may fear that this is a tactical maneuver, or
an attempt to trap them. It is not.
Some unionists have expressed fears about a Plan B. There
is no Plan B. There is no secret agenda.
Unionists say they do not trust republicans. But they do
need to trust themselves.
The IRA's decision to formally end its armed campaign
and today's announcements are genuine initiatives to
revive the peace process by conclusively resolving the
concerns of unionists.
Issues relating to the IRA, which were presented as
difficulties for unionists, have now been definitively dealt
There are those who will try to dismiss or to minimise
what has been announced today. We are prepared to meet
those people to discuss their concerns.
Our leadership will also be seeking meetings with
political, church, business and civic interests to build on
the progress of today's events and to discuss all these
urgent and important issues.
I would appeal therefore to political leaders to respond
carefully. The words of some in the past have fueled
sectarian violence against Catholics and this has been a
particularly difficult summer. There were serious attempts
to provoke a reaction from nationalists and republicans.
There may well be other attempts in the time ahead so I
call upon people to show the calm and discipline that was
evident over the summer months and particularly in recent
This initiative has opened up a new phase in Irish political
life. This is not just about the peace process and conflict
resolution, though that is vitally important. It is bigger than
the question of arms.
It is about the future of this island, the type of country that
we want to live in, the sort of society that we desire for
future generations as well as this generation.
Sinn Féin is proud of our republican values. Our strategy is
to bring about Irish unity and independence. And we will
campaign and argue for this as we expect unionists to
argue for their political vision.
But in the interest of our shared constituencies we are
prepared to work with them in the political institutions to
deal with the outstanding issues of the peace process and
the social and economic needs that face people at this time.
One of the most critical issues facing us at this time is the
pressing need to tackle sectarianism.
The context for this is the Good Friday Agreement.
We are not naive about the hard work and the difficulties
which have yet to be overcome. But a new dynamic has
been created. Republicans face into this with confidence.
We appeal to unionists and others to join with us. To leave
the past behind and to build a shared and peaceful future
for all our people