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September 26, 2005

IICD Report: What It Said

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 de Chastelain
Gen John de Chastelain at a press conference in the Culloden Hotel, Belfast, where he announced that all IRA arms had been put beyond use. Photograph: Paul Faith

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IICD Report: What It Said

The report of the Independent International Commission on
Decommissioning, delivered yesterday to the Minister for
Justice, Michael McDowell, and the Northern Ireland
Secretary, Peter Hain, stated the following (in full).

1 Over the past number of weeks we have engaged with the
IRA representative in the execution of our mandate to
decommission paramilitary arms.

2 We can now report that we have observed and verified
events to put beyond use very large quantities of arms
which the representative has informed us includes all the
arms in the IRA's possession. We have made an inventory of
this material.

3 In 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 inventory is
consistent with these estimates and we believe that the
arms decommissioned represent the totality of the IRA's

4 The manner in which the arms were decommissioned is in
accordance with the remit given us by the two governments
as reflected in their Decommissioning Acts of 1997.

5 A Protestant and a Catholic clergyman also witnessed all
these recent events: the Rev Harold Good, former president
of the Methodist Church in Ireland, and Fr Alec Reid, a
Redemptorist priest.

6 The new single inventory of decommissioned IRA arms
incorporates the three we made during the preceding IRA
events. This lists all the IRA arms we have verified as
having been put beyond use. We will retain possession of
this inventory until our mandate is complete.

7 We can report, however, that the arms involved in the
recent events include a full range of ammunition, rifles,
machine guns, mortars, missiles, handguns, explosives,
explosive substances and other arms, including all the
categories described in the estimates provided by the
security forces.

8 In summary we have determined that the IRA has met its
commitment to put all its arms beyond use in a manner
called for by the legislation.

9 It remains for us to address the arms of the loyalist
paramilitary groups, as well as other paramilitary
organisations, when these are prepared to co-operate with
us in doing so.

The report was signed by Tauno Nieminen, John de Chastelain
and Andrew Sens

© The Irish Times


de Chastelain Insists He Has No Doubts

Mark Hennessy in Belfast

De Chastelain press conference: Gen John de Chastelain
and the other two members of the Independent International
Commission on Decommissioning, Brig-Gen Tauno Nieminen of
Finland and Ambassador Andrew Sens of the United States
answered a long series of questions from journalists at
their press conference in Belfast yesterday.

Question: Inevitably, unionists are going to be sceptical
about this. Can you say confidently, hand on heart, that
the IRA has not kept a stash of weapons secreted somewhere
else for what they would call the defence of nationalist

De Chastelain: We put the question to the IRA, "Are we
getting everything". We did so because in the estimates
that we received there was a range of items. We had to be
sure for ourselves that what we got was what they had. They
assured us that that was so.

And we believe that for a number of reasons. One, we said
the arms we saw put beyond use and which we catalogued
relate to the estimates that we had been given.

And there is another reason. There was a lot of ammunition
and for the most part the ammunition was still in the
manufacturers' boxes, with the seals intact. But a lot of
the ammunition wasn't. It was loose, either in belts, or in
individual rounds of a wide variety of sizes and apertures.

It seemed clear to us that this ammunition had been
collected over a period of time from individuals, perhaps
from caches, perhaps from active service units, perhaps
from places that people had put them in anticipation of use
many years ago and brought to us in that loose form. And
not only ammunition like that, but a large number of items
like time power units (TPUs), ballistic caps. That sort of

Question: Have these been done away with in a way that they
can never be used again?

De Chastelain: All the arms that we have seen have been
decommissioned in accordance with the legislation which
renders them permanently inaccessible, or permanently
unusable. So from our point of view, the answer to your
question is yes.

Question: General de Chastelain, can I ask you if the
amount that you saw decommissioned corresponded exactly
with the inventories given by both governments. Secondly,
the acts that you have seen in recent times, in terms of
proportion, how do they compare with the previous acts that
you witnessed?

De Chastelain: I will answer the last part first: greatly
more. We made the point during the first three events that
we had still a great deal more work to do and that became
evident during these past few weeks, and particularly
during this past week.

We have said that the arms decommissioned are consistent
with the estimates. The estimates covered broad ranges.
They are that, they are estimates. They take account of a
number of factors, the fact that much of this stuff is very

Much of it came 20 years ago. Some of it has gone to
paramilitary groups that have broken away from this
organisation. Some may have been lost in terms of an
individual who was given responsibility having died and the
location never having been found.

But we are convinced that the arms we saw put beyond use
are both consistent with the estimates and that they are

Sens: Just to add to the point, a vast amount of material
has been taken out of politics and put beyond use. It's
gone. It is really an immense amount.

Question: What were the British and Irish estimates?
Secondly, aren't you totally dependent on the IRA, without
any independent evidence, to know whether guns have been
retained for defensive purposes?

De Chastelain: The estimates prepared by security forces
took account of a possible range, if you follow me. They
did not say that there must be "X" of this, but between "X"
and "Y" of this. Our point is that what was put beyond use
is consistent with that. I am not going to go into the
detail of the estimates. They were given to us by the
security forces in confidence.

Perhaps they will make them available to you, perhaps not.
Of course, we have no way of knowing for certain that the
IRA hasn't retained arms. But it is our understanding from
discussing with them and our belief in what we have done
that they were sincere when they said that.

Let me make the point - arms in their possession - it could
be, I suppose, that a number of years from now, somebody
could stumble across a field and there are some arms and
they belong to PIRA and they could say, "Well, you were
told that you had everything, and you don't. You were
wrong." Is that possible? Of course it is.

Question: Would it not be more helpful for you to say that
the British and Irish governments believe the IRA had three
tonnes of Semtex and that you destroyed three tonnes of
Semtex? Would that not be more visible, would that not be
more proof?

De Chastelain: It might be more visible and it might be
more proof. But we can't say that and they can't say that
because they don't know exactly how much they have. They
believe that there is a certain range of stuff. Items have
been used. Rounds have been used in training.

Some ammunition was found after the estimates were made. I
think there was something quite recently about 10,000
rounds of ammunition found in Belfast and somebody was
accused of having it. That was in October 2003 and these
estimates were produced in September 2003.

So what I am telling you is that I don't think anybody
knows for sure. I don't think, frankly, that some of the
paramilitaries know for sure exactly what they have in all
places. But they have told us that they believe they have
given us everything that they have, and we believe them.

Question: There has been considerable doubt cast on this
process amongst unionists, particularly the Democratic
Unionist Party. Do you feel that they are questioning your
integrity and effectively calling you and your colleagues

De Chastelain: I would say for myself, no. We have had, as
I said, a long-standing relationship with the Democratic
Unionist Party as we have had with other political parties
and I would add also that we have welcomed their advice. I
can certainly understand why they are concerned that we
have had to work in such secrecy.

As I said not just the DUP, but a whole bunch of people in
this country, particularly those who have suffered at the
hands of paramilitaries, on both sides of the divide, want
to know that this stuff is gone and why take the word of
these three foreigners.

I would tell you that if we didn't have confidentiality I
don't think that we would have had any events, let alone
this one. What would you have had? I don't know. But we
spent a lot of time since we started dealing with the IRA
representative in 1999 trying to make the point that unless
things were visible people were going to doubt us and a
commission that is not necessarily believed is not one that
is particularly helpful.

They have made the point to us, too, that they have reasons
for wanting to do things in the way that they want. And we
did make the point - I referred to it in my opening remarks
- that the international body had made this point after
discussing with people at the time, in the early days in
1995 and 1996, about how we could actually carry out
decommissioning and it became clear to us that there were
some [in the IRA] who in no way accepted the fact that they
had been defeated, in no way accepted the fact that they
would surrender, that they would give up their arms only if
they could pursue their aims by other means and not in any
way accept blame, or humiliation.

It is not for us to do that. Our task is simple and
straightforward: deal with the arms.

Even though we have been suggesting that we get more
openness - more openness would be better for us, you
wouldn't be sitting there saying did it happen - they have
made it clear to us that it wasn't going to happen, and it

Question: Why should anybody believe you and your

De Chastelain: Because we are telling the truth. Why would
we lie? We are not.

Question: Can you tell us anything about the method of

De Chastelain: No.

Question: Why are you and your colleagues so convinced of
the IRA's sincerity? What makes you believe them?

De Chastelain: I gave you two examples. We had to ask them
and they answered. In the second place we saw what we did,
we compared it with the estimate, it was consistent.

Thirdly, our own judgement [based] on what we saw coming
in. We had second-hand (intelligence) from the security
forces. We don't get operational intelligence from the
security forces. We are not supposed to. But we heard
second-hand from the security forces that over the last
month and a bit that members of the IRA were scouring the
country to get this stuff and what we saw when we worked on
it, over the days that we worked on it, and the condition
it was in and the way that it was brought in, convinced us
that they were telling us the truth.

Why would they lie? If it became apparent subsequently that
there was a lot of stuff in their hands that would become
apparent, that would undermine what I believe it is they
are trying to do. Yes, we believe them. Could we be wrong?
Yes, I suppose, but we don't believe we are.

Question: Did you try to persuade them to go for
photographic evidence?

De Chastelain: No, no.

Question: How important do you categorise today for the
overall peace process? Secondly, when do you think the
loyalist paramilitaries will step up to the mark and
decommission weapons?

De Chastelain: Our mandate has been very straightforward:
get the arms. Now, I have personal views on what I think
this could allow to happen, but I am not going to give them
to you because it has been pointed out to us on many
occasions by people whom I respect, and who are
politicians, who have said to me, "Stick to your mandate.
Don't get involved in editorialising about politics", so I
am not. But from our perspective I think it is hugely

With regard to the loyalists, I don't know. We worked with
the loyalists in the early years of this process, with the
UVF right from the start. They [the UVF and the UDA] have
both since broken off contact with us. Indeed, it has been
a number of years since we have talked with the UVF.

More recently, the Ulster Political Research Group (UPRG)
has talked to us on behalf of the UDA to try and open up
some dialogue, but not in terms of talking about

Question: General, are you aware that the IRA itself has
undermined your integrity by briefing volunteers that no
decommissioning took place, that it had manufactured dummy
weapons and that you yourself know that the peace process
is in jeopardy.

De Chastelain: I will start by saying that the IRA has
never said that it surrendered its weapons. They put their
weapons beyond use under our supervision. Those weapons
from our perspective are gone and they won't be used again,
but the word "surrender" never came into it.

The kind of weapons that came into it are the kind of
weapons that you have been seeing on cameras for the last
24 hours in the museums of recovered weapons. Yes, there
were improvised weapons that were put beyond use, but the
vast majority of the stuff were commercial types of arms,
heavy machine guns, AK (Kalashnikovs) and the like.

Question: General, in essence what you seem to be saying is
that this has to be taken on trust, that the IRA has

De Chastelain: "We can only do so much. We can do our job.
We can tell you that we have done our job. If that is not
good enough, and I can understand that some people might
have difficulty with that, then there is nothing that we
can do about it. The word trust is important.

Our relationship with the IRA representative from the
outset has been a very focused one. And it has been
professional from point of view. We have not varied into
politics, about their views, or our views, or anything

You may recall that we first started meeting with them in
1999 and the first event was in 2001 and the third event
was in 2003 and now we have had a whole series of events,
and we think we have wrapped it all up. A lot of that time
was spent in trying to engender a degree of trust between
them and us. On our side, that they would do what they said
they would do, and, on their side, that we would do what we
said we would do. So far, we have both abided by that. When
they tell me, "That's it", and I have the evidence of my
eyes that supports that contention, I say I believe them.
But do you have to take what I say on trust? Absolutely
not, you will believe what you will believe."

Brig Nieminen: "Republicans said they would not be seen to
be defeated, or be seen to surrender, so you take their
word when they said they had put their arms beyond use. Or,
given the demand for more verification than that, you can
take their word for it and our word for it, or [ if you
seek] more verification than that, their word for it, our
word for it and the two witnesses' word it. But at some
point, there is an element of trust in it. We are satisfied
that they have put their weapons beyond use.

Question: Notwithstanding the scale of the work that you
say you have recently completed, do you accept that this
afternoon you have suggested some doubt as to the totality
of it?

De Chastelain: If I have, then, boy, I have been saying the
wrong thing, because I have been trying to say very loudly
that we have no doubt about it. The question put to me was,
"We only have your word for it". Yes, but we wouldn't give
you that word if we had any doubts about it. We have
nothing to gain by telling you that this is done, except
questions and doubts being thrown at us, which I
understand. But we are not prevaricating, we are telling
you what we think."

Question: Were any photographs taken at any time whatsoever
during the decommissioning process, for publication, or

De Chastelain: Not that we are aware of.

Question: How many days did this take?

De Chastelain: The bulk of the work was during the past
week when we were joined by the witnesses and we started
the task of doing what was left. I can only tell you that
we worked a number of days, and long hours. I am not
looking for sympathy, but it was six in the morning, until
late at night, with the three of us involved at each event.

Brigadier Nieminen and I have handled every weapon that was
put beyond use, to examine it, to identify it, not to take
serial numbers which we are precluded by the legislation
from doing, counting, weighing.

Essentially, the three of us finished our work with the IRA
representative on Saturday. We wrote reports yesterday and
asked for meetings with the Irish and British governments,
and alerted you folks.

Question: What do you hope will actually come out of this
and why didn't you make any recommendations that
photographs be taken?

De Chastelain: That photos be taken? The question had been
asked and the IRA said there will be no photos. What was
the point of asking again? I had been suggesting to them
for many years that a more open process would be easier for
us and more helpful but they were not able to do it. So why
would I ask them to do photographs when I knew that they
were not going to do it?

Question: And what do you hope will come out of it?

De Chastelain: I would hope that the loyalist
paramilitaries will agree to decommission and that that can
be the end of the use of the gun in Irish politics - or, at
least, by the major groups that have been involved so far,
and those that are still active presumably can be dealt
with by the security forces and that people get back to
politics which is what this is all about and I can go home.

Question: The unionist voter is quite sceptical about this
whole process. I think a lot of them would have been helped
by an inventory of arms. When are we going to get that?

De Chastelain: When we started this whole process with the
paramilitaries we were looking for a method that would be
acceptable to them and that we could recommend to the two
governments. What became apparent from both sides was the
reluctance of one paramilitary group to be seen to be
moving faster than another so that there would be an
imbalance. So we agreed that the inventories from both
sides would only be made available to the two governments
at the completion of the process and the governments agreed
with that and, as far as I know, they still agree. But they
will be made available eventually and you can see for

Question: In October 21st 2003 you arrived late and tired
and you were very limited in the information you gave. You
were aware of the impact that that had.

De Chastelain: Do you mean that it wasn't my finest hour?

Question: What's the difference on this occasion, or is
anything different?

De Chastelain: We were still in the process of
decommissioning with the IRA then. We aren't now. Our
ability to continue further acts with them was very
dependent in not betraying the trust that I had with them
that I shouldn't go into detail, so I had to go on about
"light", "medium" and "heavy" ordnance. You guys had a
field day with that, and I understand that. This time it is
different. This time, when we said, "Is this everything",
they said, "Yes, this is everything". That certainly wasn't
the case two years ago.

Question: How long would it take to replace this scale of

De Chastelain: I have no reason to believe that they will
do that, or that they want to do that. Why would they? If
they needed weapons they don't have to go to arms sellers.
Most of the activity in the last ten years has been with
home-made explosives, sometimes improvised weapons,
sometimes with small arms.

In the first place, I don't think that they would ever
consider rearming on that scale. That's a personal opinion.
Secondly, they wouldn't have to. If somebody really wants
to be difficult and you can see it happening in Iraq and
other places, a trip down to the agricultural store to buy
fertiliser and a trip to the grocery store to buy sugar and
you are in business.

How soon could they get to an arms dealer to get a ship
that could slip past all the security measures that people
in both jurisdictions have stepped up even more in the
recent days of terrorist concerns? I think it would take a
hell of a long time, but I don't know that for sure."

Question: You counted the weapons. Why simply not tell us
the numbers?

De Chastelain: I said before that we are not going to
divulge the inventory until this process is over.

Question: What kind of weapons?

De Chastelain: We are talking about flame throwers,
surface-to-air missiles, we are talking about rocket-
propelled grenades, both commercial and home-made; heavy
machine guns, all of the things that you have seen in the

Question: Did you see any weaponry manufactured since 1994?

Nieminen: Yes, there were some very modern weapons.

Question: Bought by the IRA post the 1994 ceasefire?

Nieminen: I can't say that, but they were very modern from
the '90s. The date of the manufacture I can't say.

De Chastelain: But, of course, you understand that the IRA
broke their ceasefire in 1996, February, I believe and then
reinstated it in July of 1997.

Question: Did you see any arms manufactured after 1996?

De Chastelain: I didn't, no. I can tell you that a lot of
the stuff we saw was manufactured . . . Well, there was a
Bren machine gun. I grew up with a Bren in Britain in the

Question: What about the 10,000 rounds of ammunition found
in Belfast that was manufactured in 2002?

De Chastelain: I did not know it was manufactured in 2003

Question: You say that you did not see weapons manufactured
post-1996. Doesn't that mean that you didn't see weapons
that were smuggled in from Florida in 1999?

Nieminen: You can't really say the date of manufacture. For
example, with a modern calibre pistol, you can see its
condition, its make, if it has been used before. But its
date? You don't know.

Sens: Unlike sterling, it isn't hallmarked.

Nieminen: There is no date, or year.

Question: Given that this can be replaced, did you ever
think that there wasn't any point?

De Chastelain: "Clearly, no. Otherwise, we would not have
spent eight years doing it. Some have made the point that
arms are a red herring, that the issue was dealing with the
mindsets. But for us, arms are the issue. We want to see
them put beyond use. We have never seen it as irrelevant. I
hope nobody else does either.

Nieminen: It was a very large amount of weapons and those
weapons will never be used again.

Sens: I am very proud to have had a hand in bringing that

© The Irish Times


Clergymen Say They Were Acting As Eyes Of Public

Dan Keenan, Northern News Editor

Press conference - independent witnesses: The two
independent eyewitnesses to the IRA decommissioning, the
Rev Harold Good and Fr Alec Reid, said they had been acting
as the eyes of the public and that they offered nothing
other than their honest testimony and their integrity.

Both took part in yesterday's press conference in Belfast.
They also gave a series of interviews afterwards.

Mr Good, the former Methodist president, said: "We stood
beside the general and his colleagues from dawn to dusk
each day that we were involved in this exercise and there
were many days.

"We never left their side, we learned a great deal about
their weaponry, they helped us to understand how you

"They helped us to understand how you put explosives and
ammunition beyond use. We couldn't bring any expertise, but
we did bring our integrity.

"The how [of decommissioning] is not as important as the
what," he said.

"The detail is not as important as the outcome. Let's focus
on the what and . . . on the outcome."

He said he understood fully unionist misgivings about the
process. "What we do have to say is that our eyes were the
lenses through which all the images were put into our mind.
We now simply want to say, on behalf of the wider
community, 'we were there'."

Fr Reid said: "What we have now is an opportunity to create
a new society, a society which will be really just, where
there will be equal healthcare, equal education, full
employment, a model police force . . . where we will have a
just and democratic society which can be a model for the
rest of the world. All this talk about inventories, about
why they didn't have photographs - and I can tell you why
they didn't have photographs - that to me is missing the

He continued: "The whole point is that we should be
thanking God, and I believe this is a grace from God, we
have now put the physical force politics of nationalism
which goes back 700 years - we've closed that. This is very
historical here. We are closing the curtain on 700 years of
Irish history."

Fr Reid said he knew republicans from Sinn Féin and the IRA
better than most thanks to having thousands of meeting with
them over three decades. He knew when they were being
straight with him, he said.

He vowed he would lay his life on the line in order to
stand over his testimony, but he knew he would not have to,
such was his confidence.

He commended his Methodist colleague, saying that the
unionist community had "a man of whom they can be proud".

"You will not meet a man with greater integrity," he said.

© The Irish Times


'The Gun Of The IRA Is Out Of Irish Politics'

Mark Brennock, Chief Political Correspondent

Irish Government reaction: Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has
called on the North's political parties to move to the next
phase of the peace process and to work to restore the
North's political institutions before next Easter.

Hailing yesterday as the "momentous day" on which the IRA
had given up all of its weapons, he said at a press
conference he understood unionists needed time to reflect
and their trust needed to be rebuilt.

Urging political progress, Mr Ahern said: "Nobody wants to
drift endlessly." He said winter time was always the best
time to make progress in relation to Northern Ireland.
"Between now and Easter time is when we have to make the
moves and decisions that allow us to move on."

When it came to summer time, he said, sectarian tensions
broke out. Last summer saw a big increase in loyalist

Asked if he could be certain that every weapon and piece of
IRA ammunition had been put beyond use, the Taoiseach said:
"Not being there, I cannot be certain, but what I can be
certain of is that I have spent the last seven years, since
the start of the multi-party talks, defending the integrity
of the Independent International Commission on
Decommissioning [ IICD]."

Now the commission had reported that "we have determined
that the IRA has met its commitment to put all its arms
beyond use in the manner called on by the legislation".

He believed this and he trusted the commission. "The fact
is in relation to the Provisional IRA . . . the gun of the
IRA is out of Irish politics."

He said that yesterday had removed one important obstacle
preventing Sinn Féin participation in government in the
Republic, but others remained.

Up to now, "we held that Sinn Féin - because of their
associations with the IRA, the fact that they had an army,
the fact that they were involved in criminality and the
fact there were weapons - would not be compatible with
anybody in government."

Yesterday's events had removed that obstacle, but he added:
"I have many other difficulties with Sinn Féin that have
nothing to do with this issue.

"I am a pro-European. I have worked very hard on European
issues. It is my other love. Sinn Féin are opposed to that
. . . They are opposed to most of the other things I do,
but they are political issues."

He said the commitments made by the IRA in July were being
fulfilled. The Government would pay attention to the
forthcoming report of the Independent Monitoring Commission
to see its judgment on whether IRA criminality had ended.

The new phase of the political process now involved seeking
to implement the Belfast agreement, "to get an assembly
into Northern Ireland; to give institutions to Northern
Ireland, a working Executive, North-South bodies, these are
the things that we have to do work on.

"It mightn't be possible to do it in the next few weeks but
hopefully, it will be possible in the months ahead."

He understood there were "two groups today who feel hugely
hurt for different reasons.

"The most important group in my view is the group of people
who suffered IRA violence because all this always brings it
back to them. I have met these groups many times and always
feel moved by them and always feel compassionate towards

"I also understand that there have been loyal volunteers of
the IRA - though I totally and absolutely disagree with
them - who feel today is a hugely historic day that they
didn't really want to have to do. And I understand that

Tánaiste Mary Harney "warmly" welcomed yesterday's
statement, describing it as "another important step towards
the full implementation of the Good Friday agreement".

She said it must be followed by reports from the
Independent Monitoring Commission commission confirming
that all IRA criminal and paramilitary activity had ceased.

"Far too often during my lifetime, we have seen the pain
that has been inflicted by the use of such weaponry and
today I warmly welcome their decommissioning and
destruction," she said.

She added that the Provisional movement had to signal its
support for the Police Service of Northern Ireland, saying
that to do otherwise "opens up a dangerous vacuum which
will only help sectarianism and lawlessness".

© The Irish Times


Opposition Leaders Welcome de Chastelain Statement

Liam Reid, Political Reporter

Opposition reaction: Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny
yesterday welcomed the statement from Gen de John
Chastelain, saying it removed "one of the key obstacles to
political progress in Northern Ireland".

"It also fulfils the clearly expressed democratic wish of
the Irish people, North and South, when they endorsed the
Good Friday agreement in 1998."

Mr Kenny said he hoped IRA decommissioning would be matched
in loyalist paramilitary groups, which he urged to re-
establish contact with Gen de Chastelain.

"I also hope that the Provisional movement will soon fulfil
its remaining commitments to end all paramilitary and
criminal activities, so that a political process based on
exclusively peaceful and democratic means can be

Labour leader Pat Rabbitte said yesterday's "welcome if
long overdue" statement on decommissioning had the
potential, if coupled with an end to all IRA activity, "to
transform the situation and herald a new era of peaceful
and democratic politics in Northern Ireland".

He said the failure to decommission by the Belfast
Agreement deadline of 2000 "added to a sense of permanent
crisis that has bedevilled the process almost since the
agreement was signed.

"The delays, as well as the duplicitous approach of the
Provisional movement in regard to such issues as the
Northern Bank robbery and the Robert McCartney murder, mean
that decommissioning - welcome as it is - is not likely to
have the same impact as it would have had in May 2000."

However, he urged all Northern political parties to
"recognise today's events as the positive development it
is, and that it will lead to the reopening of negotiations
with a view to the earliest possible re-establishment of
the assembly".

Green party leader Trevor Sargent said the announcement was
"an important milestone on the road to the full
implementation of the Good Friday agreement and one which
we warmly welcome.

"However, it must be remembered that this is still only a
critical staging post in the overall process," he said,
citing loyalist decommissioning, Sinn Féin signing up to
the Police Commission and unionists coming into
powersharing. "Three important elements still need
completion before the Good Friday agreement can be
implemented in full. These are loyalist decommissioning;
Sinn Féin signing up to the Police Commission; and
unionists coming into government."

© The Irish Times


SF Poised For Electoral Gain In The South

Political Analysis: Yesterday has brought closer the day
when Sinn Féin will sit in government in the Republic,
writes Mark Brennock, Chief Political Correspondent.

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern yesterday highlighted Sinn Féin's
policy on Europe and the economy as obstacles to their
participation in government.

It was a far cry from the years of insisting that that
party was beyond the Pale because it had a private army,
involved in violence and criminality.

Fine Gael and Labour yesterday insisted that Sinn Féin
still had a long way to go to establish their democratic
credentials and be seen as acceptable members of a
coalition government in the Republic.

But Bertie Ahern said the obstacle of IRA violence and
weapons had effectively been removed.

Of course, the Government would watch closely for what the
Independent Monitoring Commission said about whether IRA
criminality had ended, he said, but "the fact is in
relation to the Provisional IRA . . . the gun of the IRA is
out of Irish politics".

Now there were other obstacles, he said. "I have many other
difficulties with Sinn Féin that have nothing to do with
this issue," he said. "I am a pro-European. Sinn Féin are
opposed to that.

"How could you have a minister going to the agricultural
council who believes there shouldn't be an agricultural
council, or an industry council? They are opposed to most
of the other things I do. But they are political issues,"
he said.

Indeed they are and none of them seem insurmountable. In
October last year, Dermot Ahern caused a stir by asserting
that it was "only a matter of time" before Sinn Féin was in
government in the Republic".

Mary Hanafin was out within a couple of days saying that it
wasn't just weapons and criminality that were the problem,
but Sinn Féin's economic policy too. Now that Fianna Fáil
sees "weapons and criminality" as out of the way, the
policy issues do not appear entirely insurmountable.

Spokesmen for both the Fine Gael and Labour leaders
yesterday made clear that neither party was yet convinced
that the weapons and criminality issue was over.

A spokesman for Enda Kenny said: "We need to see a clear
break with any links to criminality. Events such as the
Northern Bank raid, the McCartney murder and the Joe
Rafferty murder all suggest that these links are still in

Labour Party leader Pat Rabbitte said something remarkably
similar through a spokesman. "I do not believe that the
situation will arise nor do I envisage any circumstances in
which the Labour Party would go into government with Sinn
Féin after the next election.

"Despite the long overdue but very welcome development in
regard to decommissioning, Sinn Féin has still a long way
to go to establish their full democratic bona fides. The
memories of the Northern Bank robbery, the murder of Robert
McCartney and the reaction of Sinn Féin to the murder of
Joseph Rafferty are all too recent."

There are many factors which will determine if and when
Sinn Féin becomes acceptable to the larger parties as a
potential coalition partner. For Fianna Fáil, these may now
concern only policy, while Fine Gael and Labour also
require more proof of that party's democratic commitment.

A crucial factor is public opinion. And if nothing happens
to question the finality of yesterday's announcement, and
the Independent Monitoring Commission reports shortly that
IRA paramilitary and criminal activity has ended, Irish
public opinion may change quickly.

In June 2001, an Irish Times/TNS mrbi opinion poll found a
majority of voters would actually accept Sinn Féin as part
of the next government. Some 47 per cent would find the
party's involvement acceptable, 41 per cent would not, and
12 per cent were undecided.

Sinn Féin participation in a coalition was seen as
acceptable among supporters of all parties except Fine
Gael, where 33 per cent of supporters said they would
accept it, with 57 per cent against, and 10 per cent

However, last January in the wake of the Northern Bank
robbery the tide had turned somewhat, with a poll finding
the public evenly divided on whether Sinn Féin would be an
acceptable partner in a coalition government.

Some 39 per cent said the party would be acceptable, 39 per
cent that it would not, 18 per cent don't know and 4 per
cent have no opinion. Among supporters of Fianna Fáil, Fine
Gael, the Green Party and the PDs, a greater number would
have found it unacceptable.

By March, after the publicity surrounding the McCartney
killing, opinion had further hardened against the
possibility of Sinn Féin serving in government in the
Republic. Just 28 per cent believed Sinn Féin would be an
acceptable government party, 56 per cent that it would be
unacceptable, while 16 per cent didn't know or had no

Yesterday's events are bound to have turned the tide of
public opinion back again. But with an estimated 18 months
to go before the next general election, it may be too much
to expect the major parties - even Fianna Fáil - to be
ready to accept Sinn Féin ministers in the Republic so
soon. The fear that violent or criminal incidents would
take place and be linked to the IRA or its members would
cause considerable instability.

It may also be too much also to expect Sinn Féin - which is
aiming for significant electoral gains in the Republic over
the next decade - to be ready to accept the major
compromises that would come with being a minority partner
in a coalition government.

The party has hovered around 10 per cent in opinion polls
over the last two years, with most analysts believing that
the failure to put weapons beyond use and continued
criminal acts were preventing a further rise.

The party will now be hoping, and the other main parties
fearing, that yesterday's events will give Sinn Féin
electoral standing a further substantial boost.

© The Irish Times


Paisley To Quiz General Over Arms

The DUP intends to ask the head of the arms decommissioning
body how old the IRA weapons he saw put beyond use were,
party leader Ian Paisley has said.

He is to meet General John de Chastelain over his report
that the IRA has now decommissioned all its weapons.

Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain said unionist
distrust was "natural", but the IRA's "historic move"
brought the return of devolution closer.

Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness is going to the US to brief
Irish Americans.

The SDLP, the Ulster Unionists and the Alliance Party also
have appointments with the general and his fellow
commissioners on Tuesday.

Political progress

Mr Hain told BBC Newsnight on Monday: "It's natural that
unionists feel suspicion and distrust and scepticism about
anything that the IRA does.

"After all, the unionist community suffered from years and
years of terror by the IRA and there are a tremendous
number of victims as a result."

At the end of the process it demonstrated to us - and
would have demonstrated to anyone who might have been with
us - that beyond any shadow of doubt, the arms of the IRA
have now been decommissioned

Church witnesses

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But he added: "This was a very significant, historic move
by the IRA and it will open the door to further progress."

Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) reports next month
and in January would consider whether the IRA was
delivering on its promise to cease paramilitary and
criminal activity, Mr Hain said.

"If [the IMC] gives a clean bill of health to the ending
and closing down of IRA paramilitary and criminal activity,
it will, I think, be very significant and ought then to
open the door to proper negotiations to take us forward on
a road that will end in self-government and power-sharing."

The White House has welcomed the IRA's move as an
"important first step" and the US State Department called
on all paramilitary groups, whether loyalist or republican,
to work with General de Chastelain to bring about complete

Spokesman Sean McCormack said the United States "remains
steadfast in its support for the peace process to achieve
lasting peace and reconciliation for the people of Northern

'New dawn'

The veteran Democrat Senator Ted Kennedy, who was strongly
critical of republicans over the Belfast murder of Robert
McCartney, congratulated Gerry Adams for his role in what
was "a watershed in the peace process".

"Hopefully, this dramatic and historic step toward peace
will be embraced by the unionist community and become a new
dawn for the peace process, so that the all-important
restoration of the Northern Ireland Assembly can take place
as soon as possible," Mr Kennedy said.

Making his report on Monday, General De Chastelain said the
IRA had handled every gun and made an inventory of the
ordnance, which was in line with estimates provided by the
UK and Irish security services.

Two churchmen, one Catholic and one Protestant, witnessed
the final acts of the decommissioning process.

Evidence call

Father Alec Reid and ex-Methodist president Rev Harold Good
said "beyond any shadow of doubt, the arms of the IRA have
now been decommissioned".

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams said the announcement would
be "difficult for many republicans" but it was a "very
brave and bold leap".

Mr Adams said the British and Irish governments must now
implement the Good Friday Agreement, with progress needed
on outstanding issues including equality, policing, human
rights, victims and on-the-run prisoners.

However, unionists reacted with scepticism, saying the
decommissioning process was not transparent enough without
photographic evidence and inventory and details on how the
weapons were "put beyond use".

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/09/27 01:37:07 GMT


Opin: Paisley Finally Running Out Of Excuses To Say No

Analysis: It may be difficult for the DUP to retain
negative politics, writes Gerry Moriarty, Northern Editor.

The word "trust" ricocheted around the press conference
centres in Belfast yesterday.

At the Culloden Hotel on the Belfast outskirts the general,
his colleagues and the clerics told us they had personally
witnessed IRA decommissioning and it was "massive".

They believed that was the end of the IRA's killing
machine. At DUP headquarters in east Belfast Ian Paisley

At the Waterfront in Belfast city centre, Sinn Féin
president Gerry Adams was in a rather pensive mode. He gave
the impression of a man who expected no less from the DUP.
Dr Paisley would need some time and space to come to terms
with the enormity of what the IRA had done and he could
have that time, was Mr Adams's line.

So, convincing the Doc that not only is the IRA ending
activity, as it pledged in its July 28th statement, but
that it has got rid of all its guns and explosives is what
the next several months will be about. Dr Paisley did not
offer any indications that he is a leader who will be
easily convinced. As far as the DUP leader was concerned
yesterday was merely an exercise in "duplicity and

There are plenty of good reasons for the DUP not accepting
the word of the IRA. Yet, when you examine the party's
position you find an inconsistency which keeps bringing us
back to the "trust" word. But we'll come to that.

If Dr Paisley is correct then Gen John de Chastelain, Brig
Gen Tauno Nieminen, Andrew Sens, Rev Harold Good and Fr
Alec Reid are gullible dupes of the IRA.

Dr Paisley accepted they had witnessed decommissioning but
was it all the guns? How could he tell when he didn't have
pictures, when he wasn't allowed by the IRA to nominate his
own cleric to verify the disarmament? At the DUP press
conference, Dr Paisley was accompanied by Peter Robinson
and Nigel Dodds. For one minute it appeared he might fire
off a few dangerous broadsides against the Protestant and
Catholic testifiers. He had "biographies" of the two men in
his pocket, he told reporters rather ominously. That seemed
a loaded comment but he did not elaborate despite some
pressing from journalists. Later Mr Robinson was on hand to
insist that nothing was being said by DUP representatives
to impugn the reputation of the clerics.

The three members of the Independent International
Commission on Decommissioning also have their reputations
to protect and yesterday they stated in the most emphatic
terms that they believed the IRA had rendered its entire
arsenal beyond use.

Rev Good said he and Fr Reid were "utterly certain" the IRA
had fully decommissioned.

The commissioners said what was rendered beyond use was
"consistent" with what the security services in the
Republic and Northern Ireland had told them was in the IRA
stockpiles. That's something like 650 Kalashnikovs and
Armalites, 500 handguns, a couple of tonnes of Semtex, 40
or so machine guns, mortars, rockets, flame-throwers,
surface-to-air-missiles, and other weaponry.

The curious, seemingly contradictory, point about the DUP's
position is that even if Dr Paisley had his own nominee to
the disarmament and even if he had photographs - in fact,
even if he had a home movie of the event - the DUP leader
would still be in the same position as he was in yesterday.
By the arguments the DUP was applying about lack of
certainty it was equally clear that neither pictures nor a
Free Presbyterian verifier could assure Dr Paisley that the
IRA hadn't left a number of pikes in the thatch.

Death and taxes may be sure things but on the DUP terms it
seems impossible to achieve absolute certainty on IRA
decommissioning. It's back down to trust - not a plentiful
commodity in Northern Ireland, and, of course, the
expertise of the commissioners. Why should anybody believe
the IICD, the commissioners were asked at yesterday's press
conference. "Because we are telling the truth," said Gen de
Chastelain. "Why would we lie?" said Mr Sens, who developed
this theme in an interesting fashion.

People had options, he added. They could take the word of
the IRA that it had fully disarmed. "Or you can demand
greater verification than that and take their word for it
and our word for it. Or if you want more verification than
that you can take their word for it, our word for it, and
the two witnesses' word for it. But at some point you get
back to the original point [ of the question], there is an
element of trust in this."

Mr Sens could have continued that in October and in January
doubters could also take the word of the members of the
Independent Monitoring Commission, presuming that they can
say that IRA activity has stopped, as seems to be the case
on the ground and as the governments believe.

As mentioned before, you can never be sure with Dr Paisley.
If he is genuinely up for some sort of accommodation with
republicans - and he has indicated that he is if the IRA is
gone away - then there is still a chance that in 12 months'
time Northern Ireland could be witness to serious
negotiations aimed at restoring devolution.

It might take more than two positive IMC reports to finally
convince Dr Paisley that this is a monumental shift by the
IRA. But if republicans live up to their word by springtime
the British and Irish governments will start to exert
pressure on the DUP to do business with Sinn Féin.

The IRA could only do final decommissioning once and
yesterday within their rather convoluted rules of operating
with the real world they did it well.

Dr Paisley can keep saying no for a long time but if the
IRA has genuinely ceased to function as a paramilitary
force then it will be politically difficult for him not to
finally shift away from negative politics. He will have run
out of genuine excuses.

© The Irish Times


IRA Guns: The List Of Weapons

Despite all of the speculation over the years, only the IRA
knows the true extent of its arsenal.

However, General John de Chastelain, head of the
international body charged with decommissioning
paramilitary arms in Northern Ireland, says that the IRA
has now put its weapons beyond use.

While Gen de Chastelain says he will not reveal the exact
nature of what he has seen rendered either unusable or
unobtainable, in his briefing he gave some details of the
decommissioning process - and suggested strongly that
assessments published by Jane's Intelligence Review,
themselves drawn from security estimates, were accurate.

The IRA's actions in Northern Ireland long ago left the
security forces in no doubt that the organisation was in a
position to fight a long campaign, providing it had the
will to do so.

When Northern Ireland slid into conflict in the late 1960s
and the Provisional IRA emerged, it was badly armed,
relying on old guns from previous campaigns, commercial
explosives and a complete lack of the logistical support
needed to fight a campaign.

But as it reorganised and grew, it acquired a wider range
of weapons from around the world and the skills to make
increasingly sophisticated home-made bombs.


The bulk of the IRA's weaponry was Libyan supplied. It
included machine guns, rifles, handguns, ammunition, Semtex
plastic explosives, surface-to-air missiles and rocket
launchers. However, not all of its was useful to the kind
of conflict that the IRA wanted to fight, according to
experts at Jane's.


1,000 rifles
2 tonnes of Semtex
20-30 heavy machine guns
7 Surface-to-air missiles (unused)
7 flame throwers
1,200 detonators
11 rocket-propelled grenade launchers
90 hand guns
100+ grenades
Source: Security estimates/Jane's Intelligence Review

Security services have estimated the IRA has held about
1,000 rifles, thought to be mostly AK-47 assault rifles,
perhaps two tonnes of Semtex, and large quantities of
ammunition for the various firearms. The IRA was also known
to hold a handful of highly accurate Barrett Light 50
sniper rifles, a weapon used to kill British soldiers in
the border area of south Armagh.

In terms of heavy weaponry, the IRA is thought to have held
Russian-made machine guns used to target helicopters in
ambushes, successfully bringing one down in 1988. The IRA's
store of surface-to-air missiles, acquired for the same
purpose, were never used. In both cases, analysts believe
the IRA may have decided they were not appropriate weapons
for their aims.

Semtex was however the most significant of the weapons: the
virtually odourless plastic explosive is relatively easy to
use because it is stable, unlike home-made bombs.

It however became a key component in the home-made bombs
and mines, typically forming a small part of a larger
device with sophisticated timers and detonators.

Another key device is the home-made mortar. This is
basically a modified tube that can be aligned to fire an
explosive round at a target, typically inside a security
forces installation from some distance away.

The IRA's largest mortar was first used in 1992 and pointed
towards sophisticated ballistics and engineering skills
within the organisation.


General John de Chastelain said the decommissioning took
place over a number of long days that began at 6am and
ended late at night. We don't know where the
decommissioning happened, other than somewhere on the
island or Ireland.

He and his two other independent inspectors say they
handled every gun and rifle, weighed every box of
ammunition and catalogued every piece of weaponry during
the decommissioning.

He said that the amounts that they had handled and
witnessed being "put beyond use" were consistent with the
range of estimates that the security services had provided
to them first in 1998 and then updated in 2004.

The total amount of weaponry was "greatly more" than that
dealt with in the previous IRA decommissioning moves.
Andrew Sens, another member of the commission, said he had
handled "an immense amount of material".

Gen de Chastelain said that it would probably take the IRA
"a hell of a long time" to amass the same weaponry again,
should it want to: this is a major concern for many
sceptical of the IRA's intentions. Many unionists believe
that the IRA retains the capacity to re-arm, not least
because of its alleged involvement in the £26.5m Northern
Bank robbery in 2004.

However, the general said that he had received "second-
hand" intelligence to suggest that IRA members had been
"scouring" the country to gather in weaponry from members
in the weeks running up to his formal meeting with the IRA
for the decommissioning.

The experience of seeing this with our own eyes, on a
minute by minute basis, provided us with evidence so clear
and of its nature so incontrovertible that, at the end of
the process, it demonstrated to us, and would have
demonstrated to anyone who might have been with us, that
beyond any shadow of doubt, the arms of the IRA have now
been decommissioned

Independent witnesses Reverend Harold Good and Father Alec

Gen de Chastelain said there had been "a lot of
ammunition". Some of it was still sealed in the
manufacturer's box, indicating it had been in storage for
many years. Some of it came in "loose", or in ammunition
belts, indicating it had been recovered from individuals,
local dumps or "active service units", he said.

Gen de Chastelain said he had seen rifles, particularly AK-
47s, machine guns, ground-to-air missiles, explosives,
explosive material, mortars, flame throwers, hand guns,
timer units and ballistic caps, a device that improves the
flight path of a missile.

While the majority of the arms were heavy weaponry, the
team had also decommissioned improvised weaponry.

Some of the weaponry was "very old", said the general. He
had handled a Bren machine gun, a 1930s weapon that he had
trained with at the start of his military career.

He said that it was likely that given the age of some of
the weaponry, and the condition in which it was presented
to his team, it was entirely possible that the IRA itself
no longer knew exactly what arms it had been keeping.

Arms dumps may have been forgotten about, particularly if
someone charged with managing it had died.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/09/26 17:10:12 GMT


Paisley Rails At 'Duplicity' And 'Lack Of Evidence'

Dan Keenan, Northern News Editor

DUP reaction: DUP leader Ian Paisley yesterday accused
the British and Irish governments of duplicity and said Gen
John de Chastelain had failed to provide numerical detail
to support his claims that the IRA had fully

He also said the two independent witnesses from the
Catholic and Protestant communities were in effect
"appointees of the IRA".

"Today was the day when the gun was finally to be taken out
of Irish politics, according to the IRA and many in the
media," he began.

"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. Instead
of openness there was the cunning tactics of a cover-up and
a complete failure from Gen John de Chastelain to deal with
the numerics of decommissioning."

He claimed it was not known how many guns, how much
ammunition and explosives were decommissioned nor how the
decommissioning was carried out.

"The IICD could only say to the people of Northern Ireland
that the proof that all the guns and material of the IRA
were decommissioned was in an assurance given to them by
the IRA," he added.

"The IICD message was to trust the IRA as the IRA had
indicated all weapons had been decommissioned. The
witnesses can only testify that the general [ de
Chastelain] was correct in his report and the general has
already declared that his report was based on IRA

Mr Paisley said the independent witnesses "were clearly
under the control of the general and were not given any
opportunity to comment during the press conference". He
continued: "In fact they had no extra detail to add to the
proceedings. It must be clearly stated that both witnesses
were approved by the IRA and therefore were accepted by the
IRA and could be in no way independent."

He also said the British government was guilty of bad
faith. "The fact remains that the promise made by the prime
minister that decommissioning must be transparent and
verifiable and must satisfy everyone was broken. There were
no photographs, no detailed inventory and no detail of the
destruction of these arms. To describe today's act as being
transparent would be the falsehood of this century."

He warned: "The people of Ulster are not going to be forced
by IRA/Sinn Féin or by the two governments along the
pathway of deceitfulness and treachery. Hidden things of
darkness are surely coming to light in the extent of the
shameful betrayal of truth that will be uncovered. Ulster
is not for sale and will not be sold."

© The Irish Times


Empey Says Unionists Remain To Be Convinced

Dan Keenan

Other Unionist reaction: Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg
Empey claimed the decommissioning and its procedure had
failed to maximise public confidence.

"Unionists remain to be convinced of the republican
movement's commitment to exclusively peaceful and
democratic means," he said.

Describing the IRA move as a "dramatic U-turn by the
republican movement from their stated position of 'not a
bullet, not an ounce'," he added: "We will wait and see the
outworking of events. It is imperative that not only arms
are decommissioned but that the dismantling of the
republican movement's criminal empire is also completed."

Sir Reg called on the British government to publish an
estimated size of the IRA arsenal given to it by the de
Chastelain commission. Lord Kilclooney, another senior UUP
figure, said the decommissioning was "major and
significant" and represented "real progress to a peaceful
and democratic Northern Ireland".

However, he warned: "The IRA still exists and it may still
have retained some illegal arms. Clearly some considerable
time will be required to assure unionists that the IRA is
no longer a threat to them. In the meantime, Sinn Féin
cannot be in government or in membership of the Policing

© The Irish Times


US Reaction

The White House has welcomed the news of IRA
decommissioning but warns that the republican movement has
to show that it has abandoned all paramilitary and criminal

Denis Staunton, Washington Correspondent

White House spokesman Scott McLellan said yesterday's
statement marked an opportunity for all parties to renew
efforts to reach a sustainable political settlement in
Northern Ireland.

"The decommissioning by the IRA is a critical first step in
fulfilling the terms of their July 28th statement to pursue
its goals through exclusively peaceful and democratic

He added: "And it must be followed by actions demonstrating
the republican movement's unequivocal commitment to the
rule of law and to the renunciation of all paramilitary and
criminal activities.

"We remain steadfast in our support for the peace process
and the work of the British and Irish governments to
achieve lasting peace and reconciliation for the people of
Northern Ireland under the principles of the Good Friday

US politicians who have been engaged with the peace process
welcomed the IRA's move as an event of historical

Senator Edward Kennedy said the long-awaited action by the
IRA was welcomed by all Americans who cared deeply about
peace and an end to the violence in Northern Ireland.

"I congratulate Gerry Adams and Sinn Féin for their role in
this achievement.

"Hopefully, this dramatic and historic step toward peace
will be embraced by the unionist community and become a new
dawn for the peace process, so that the all-important
restoration of the Northern Ireland Assembly can take place
as soon as possible," he said.

New York congressman Jim Walsh, chairman of the US
Congress's Friends of Ireland Committee, said he hoped that
unionists would match the IRA's action by restoring the
North's political institutions.

"Today's news is a historic advancement in the decades-old
struggle to end religious and sectarian violence in
Northern Ireland," he said. "Through disarmament, the IRA
clearly indicates its intent to advance a political
resolution to the Troubles."

Massachusetts congressman Richard Neal described the IRA's
action as "an extraordinary development" that should be
welcomed by the US, British and Irish governments in the
strongest possible terms.

"By putting its arms beyond use, the IRA has ended its
armed struggle. In the process, an unparalleled opportunity
for peace and political stability has been created," he

Mr Neal, who will meet Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness in
Washington this week, said that if the DUP failed to
respond to the IRA's move, the institutions envisaged in
the Belfast Agreement should be made to work without the
biggest unionist party.

"Paisley's leadership role is going to be questioned here,"
he said.

© The Irish Times


IICD: Composition And Remit

The Independent International Commission on
Decommissioning (IICD) was set up in 1995 by the Irish and
British governments to advise on the issue of
decommissioning of arms belonging to paramilitary
organisations that had called ceasefires the previous year.

The body, then headed by former US senator George Mitchell,
and including Gen John de Chastelain and Finnish politician
Harri Holkeri, produced what was to become known as the
Mitchell report. It recommended the establishment of an
independent international commission to oversee the
decommissioning process.

Both governments introduced legislation enabling the
establishment of such a body, and this was put into effect
in August 1997 through a joint communique, with Gen de
Chastelain appointed to chair the body.

The body was established with a series of aims; to consult
with peace process participants and draw up its proposals
for decommissioning, oversee that process, and make reports
to the governments.

The commission was designed as a three person body, with
representatives drawn from Canada, the United States and
Finland, backed up by a secretariat in Dublin and Belfast,
all of which has been funded by the British and Irish

In late 1997 and early 1998 the commission came up with
proposals as to how decommissioning might be achieved,
essentially either through information leading to the
discovery of arms, or through the destruction of arms by
the paramilitary bodies themselves. Both governments then
introduced regulations to implement the decommissioning

However, the two-year deadline proved far too optimistic,
with the governments publishing an additional
decommissioning scheme in 2001 to facilitate the body's
continued work.

Gen de Chastelain is former head of the Canadian armed
forces. Born in 1937 in Bucharest to a Scottish father and
an American mother he was educated in England and Scotland
and moved to Canada at the age of 18. He had a long career
in the military and became chief of staff of the Canadian
armed forces in 1989.

His fellow members are Andrew Sens from the US and
Brigadier-General Tauno Nieminen from Finland.

Sens is a career diplomat who has served in various
postings around the world. Brig-Gen Nieminen has extensive
peacekeeping and peace monitoring experience.

Liam Reid

© The Irish Times


General Spoke Volumes About Arms Destruction

General de Chastelain yesterday managed to carefully
outmanoeuvre the confidentiality clause imposed upon him,
writes Tom Clonan.

Gen John de Chastelain and his colleagues in the
Independent International Commission on Decommissioning
(IICD) are bound to secrecy under the terms of the
legislation setting up the commission. It provides that the
members of the commission and people working for it shall
be bound not to disclose any information obtained in the
course of their work unless such disclosure is authorised
by or on behalf of the commission.

This confidentiality clause, along with the amnesties and
immunities provided for in Irish and British legislation,
have provided armed subversives with the necessary
guarantees of "inviolability" and immunity from prosecution
that has facilitated the decommissioning process to date.

The guarantees and privileges for paramilitaries
surrendering arms are significant and wide-ranging. They
include a prohibition on the prosecution of persons being
in possession of or transporting weapons, ammunition and
explosives while engaged in the decommissioning process.
There is also a prohibition on the forensic examination or
testing of such weapons, explosives and ammunition. The
provisions effectively rule out the possibility of the
examination of paramilitary arms and explosives for the
purposes of retrospective investigations into criminal or
terrorist acts. Without such guarantees and confidentiality
clauses, it is unlikely that any subversives - of whatever
political persuasion - would engage with the
decommissioning process.

As a result of these restrictions, Gen de Chastelain came
in for a deal of criticism and hostile scrutiny during his
ill-fated press conference following the Provisional IRA's
last major act of decommissioning in October 2003. During
that press conference, Gen de Chastelain refused to state
in even the vaguest terms the magnitude or nature of the
ordnance destroyed. He spoke only of "light, medium and
heavy" ordnance - giving no real indication as to the
nature or amount of weapons destroyed. In the absence of
photographic evidence and with no eyewitness accounts of
the destruction of PIRA weapons, Gen de Chastelain was
unable on that occasion to provide even the most basic
"word picture" to describe the "significant" act of
decommissioning that had taken place.

Yesterday's press conference, however, yielded a great deal
more information. In terms of the type of ordnance
destroyed, statements from Gen de Chastelain and his staff,
along with the clergymen present, indicated that the full
spectrum of weapons in PIRA possession had been put beyond
use. This included references to rifles, pistols, mortars,
detonators, machine guns and explosives. At one point,
reference was made to weapons dating from the 1950s -
strongly hinting that the entire PIRA arsenal, from early
British and American imports to latter-day Libyan and US
models had been destroyed.

Further allowing those attending the conference to "read
between the lines" Gen de Chastelain managed to carefully
outmanoeuvre the confidentiality clauses imposed upon him
by stating - more than once - that the amount of ordnance
destroyed was consistent with those intelligence estimates
of the PIRA's arsenal supplied by the intelligence
community in both the Irish and British jurisdictions.

These estimates broadly agree on a PIRA weapons inventory
consisting of between 800 and 1,100 assault rifles, over
500 automatic pistols and revolvers, at least one Surface-
to-Air-Missile, a sniper rifle, a small number of flame-
throwers and at least 2¼ tons of Semtex.

By repeatedly stating that he had personally supervised the
destruction of a quantum of ordnance consistent with these
figures, Gen de Chastelain spoke volumes in terms of the
total numbers of weapons, ammunition and explosives
destroyed over the last number of weeks. Gen de Chastelain
also went on to unequivocally state that the ordnance put
beyond use under the supervision of the IICD - of which the
IICD retains a full inventory - represented the "totality
of the IRA arsenal".

In contrast to Gen de Chastelain's reticent performance at
the October 2003 press conference, the net effect of
yesterday's combined statements were designed to yield a
"read my lips" assertion that the PIRA had fully

A further significant aspect of yesterday's press
conference were repeated references to the "meticulous"
exhaustive and intensive nature of the decommissioning
process, with a number of statements to the effect that Gen
de Chastelain had personally handled all of the weapons and
ordnance destroyed in the latest round of decommissioning.
A physical, hands-on check of a weapon - as opposed to a
mere visual inspection - strongly suggests that the weapons
were disassembled prior to their being put beyond use. This
would ensure that the firing mechanisms, firing pins, bolt
faces and barrels of the weapons were exposed to fouling
and destruction by various mechanisms or methods such as
grinding, cutting, crushing - or most likely, burial in
situ in concrete. Despite their robust appearance, rifles
and pistols are designed to be easily disassembled in this
fashion and once taken apart, their inner mechanisms are
extremely vulnerable to fouling. Individual attention given
to each weapon in this way would certainly have satisfied
the IICD that only viable weapons - not ageing or
unserviceable decoys - were brought in for destruction.
Such a disassembly of weapons - with the separation of
firing mechanisms entailed - would also provide a guarantee
of each weapon having been put verifiably beyond use.

It is likely that the Semtex was burned in situ also.
Highly stable, plastic explosives such as Semtex are
capable of being safely and readily burned in a manner not
unlike domestic firelighters. Plastic explosives also burn
quickly - it takes approximately 45 seconds to burn one
kilo of Semtex.

In short, reading between the lines of yesterday's IICD
press conference, there is a more or less explicitly stated
message - carefully articulated despite the confidentiality
clauses of the decommissioning acts - that the PIRA have
finally decommissioned.

Dr Tom Clonan is The Irish Times Security Analyst.

© The Irish Times


Millstone Around Peace Process Has Finally Been Removed

The IRA has come a long way since regarding the laying
down of weapons as surrender, writes Dan Keenan, Northern

Decommissioning has been the peace process millstone since
the signing of the Belfast Agreement in 1998.

In the face of unionist and British demands, the IRA
initially insisted unequivocally: "Let us make it clear
that there will be no decommissioning by the IRA." For more
than 12 months after the Belfast Agreement, there was no
agreement on the formation of a Northern Ireland Executive
because unionists insisted on prior decommissioning.

The Trimble policy of "no guns, no government" was the
irresistible force which met the immovable object of the
IRA's stance which equated the decommissioning of one
bullet or one ounce of explosive with abject surrender.

In July 1998, P O'Neill - the usual signatory of IRA
statements - issued a statement decrying the unionist
position but, significantly, did not rule out

By November that year, the IRA authorised another
statement. This time, the organisation appeared to equate
moves on decommissioning with "buying" political progress.

Following the much-delayed establishment of the
institutions of the Belfast Agreement, P O'Neill stated:
"The IRA will appoint a representative to enter into
discussions with Gen John de Chastelain and the Independent
International Commission on Decommissioning ."

However by early 2000, First Minister David Trimble was on
the verge of following through on his threat to quit in the
absence of an IRA move on arms.Northern Secretary Peter
Mandelson suspended Stormont to prevent its collapse, amid
strong republican protests. Four days later, the IRA
withdrew its contact with the IICD.

Despite the gloom following the Stormont suspension in
February 2000, another twist emerged by May. Political
talks envisaged a sequence of events linking political
progress to decommissioning and seemed to link IRA moves on
weapons to British demilitarisation.

"The contents of a number of our arms dumps will be
inspected by agreed third parties, who will report that
they have done so to the IICD. The dumps will be re-
inspected regularly to ensure that the weapons have
remained silent," the IRA promised.

It worked: power-sharing was restored at Stormont. However,
the IRA accused the British government of not upholding its
side of the bargain and unionists accused the IRA of the
same and of keeping its contacts with the IICD to a

In the aftermath of the 2001 British general election,
which saw Sinn Féin gains at the expense of the SDLP, the
IRA claimed in August it had agreed a decommissioning
scheme with the IICD. Unionists reiterated demands for
actual decommissioning to begin.

Further suspensions of Stormont stiffened unionist demands
for the IRA's guns to be "put beyond use" and enraged
nationalists, who felt the British government was pandering
to David Trimble.

Yet despite the poisonous political mix, made worse by the
furore over the arrest of three Irishmen in Colombia, the
IRA nonetheless began actual decommissioning in October
2001. This was done, according to P O'Neill, to "save the
peace process" and "to persuade others of our genuine
intentions". By April 2002, a second act of decommissioning
was carried out. The IRA insisted the deed was unilateral
and stressed the need for the British government to play
its part.

However, the crisis which erupted over allegations of an
IRA spy ring at Stormont in October 2002 led to another
withdrawal of the IRA representative from the IICD and
another, still open-ended, suspension of Stormont.

Efforts throughout 2003 underscored the links between
political progress and IRA decommissioning and British
demilitarisation or "normalisation". Following weeks of
sustained contacts between Sinn Féin and David Trimble,
both governments thought they had an arrangement which
would deliver both conclusive moves on weapons and
sustainable renewal of the Stormont institutions.

Amid great ceremony at Hillsborough Castle however,
unionists said the third act of IRA decommissioning was too
secretive to foster unionist confidence. The deal collapsed
amid recrimination.

Political efforts continued throughout 2004 with the
parties and the two governments meeting at Leeds Castle in
Kent in September for an intensive effort to find
agreement. Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern delivered their
"blueprint" to the parties in November. Sinn Féin accepted
the governments' plans as Ian Paisley insisted that the
time was "now or never" for a deal involving

However, by the time Mr Blair and Mr Ahern arrived in
Belfast in December in the hope of announcing a
breakthrough, the political atmosphere was already sour.

The DUP held to a demand for photographic evidence of
decommissioning and that the IRA show remorse for its
campaign. Gerry Adams criticised Dr Paisley's "unacceptable
language" and the hoped-for deal came up short.

© The Irish Times


Long History Of Hoarding Weapons At An End

IAN BRUCE, Defence Correspondent September 27 2005

Copyright © 2005 Newsquest (Herald & Times) Limited. All
Rights Reserved


NO terrorist organisation in history has ever taken the
gamble of destroying all of its weapons when the ballot box
replaced the bullet as a political priority.

The Provisional IRA imported vast quantities of arms and
explosives in the 30 years of the "Long War" in Northern

Gifts of more than 100 tonnes from Libya's Colonel Muammar
Gaddafi were landed successfully by trawlers between 1985
and 1987. The consignments included hundreds of AK47
assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and Sam-
7 anti-aircraft missiles, as well as at least a tonne of
Semtex plastic explosive.

A later cargo containing 120 tonnes was intercepted by
French customs agents off the Brittany coast in 1987.

Networking with the Basque terrorist group Eta and with the
Palestine Liberation Organisation produced further

By the mid-1980s, British intelligence estimated that the
Provos had enough Semtex to underwrite a high-intensity
bombing campaign for the next 20 years. Only a fraction of
this was ever seized in searches or used in attacks.

The terrorists were keeping it in reserve while they used
"Co-op Mix", the lethal blend of commercial weedkiller and
other accessible ingredients.

Military rifles and heavy machine-guns were looted from
poorly-guarded Norwegian army depots and US National Guard

Funds siphoned from Noraid, the "prisoner support fund"
established by sympathisers of Irish extraction in the US,
were used to buy hunting versions of the M16 Armalite
assault rifle from as far afield as Japan. These were then
converted from single-shot to full automatic fire.

One of the IRA's biggest coups was the acquisition of
Barret Light .50 sniper rifles, which propelled a bullet at
2000mph and could kill a man at 1500 yards.

There were also thousands of bolt-action Lee-Enfield and
German Mauser rifles and British Bren guns left over from
IRA campaigns in the 1920s and 1950s.

Recovering the powerful rifles and eliminating the snipers
trained to use them became a priority for SAS squads
operating along the South Armagh and Fermanagh borders.

In the early 1970s, the intelligence services based at
Lisburn, eight miles from Belfast, attempted to compile an
annual inventory of weapons in terrorist hands.

It was never complete. The first Libyan shipments arrived
undetected at remote spots. Rifles and ammunition from the
KGB were transferred between trawlers at sea and brought
ashore among regular catches of fish.

When the Soviet Union collapsed and the Balkans convulsed
in civil war, cheap firepower flooded the black market. A
Kalashnikov could be picked up in Croatia for less than

By then, the Provos were raking in an estimated £20m a year
from racketeering.

Their money came from diesel smuggling along the border in
an EU tax scam, extortion, robbery, cigarette smuggling and
control of the drugs trade. A link-up with the Farc
guerrillas in Colombia via Eta ensured narcotics were

Clive Fairweather, a former deputy commander of the SAS,
said yesterday: "There are arms' caches scattered across
remote areas of the south . . . buried under barns, in
culverts and beneath farmyard manure tips.

"To some extent, the weapons don't matter that much. What
counts is that the Provos retain the funding, knowledge and
technical expertise to manufacture bombs, timing devices
and mortars and to train volunteers. The threat of a
resumption of terrorist attacks will only decrease with
time as that expertise is lost."

A Police Service of Northern Ireland source added: "Until
the end of July this year, the Provos were still recruiting
and carrying out surveillance of potential targets. That
has now ceased, which is a hopeful sign.

"But they still have 1000-plus members out there, many of
them trained insurgents. More crucially, they have a small
but experienced 'engineering' team of bomb-designers and

"We also have to remember that there are still about 300
hard-core members of the breakaway Real and Continuity IRAs
at large with access to weapons and no intention of taking
the democratic route to achieve their aims."


Irish Stars For Hollywood Celebration

Denis Staunton in Washington

Neil Jordan, Jim Sheridan and Belfast music producer
David Holmes are to be honoured in Hollywood at a
celebration of Irish writing in film next year.

Colin Farrell, Anjelica Huston, Fionnuala Flanagan and the
chairman of the Walt Disney Studios, Dick Cook, are among
those who plan to attend the event, which will be held in
Los Angeles a few days before the Academy Awards ceremony.

Hosted by the US-Ireland Alliance, "Oscar Wilde: Honoring
Irish Writing in Film" is intended to be an annual event
aimed at promoting Hollywood's links with Irish writers,
film-makers, animators and musicians.

US-Ireland Alliance president Trina Vargo said that the
event, which will be attended by 500 people, is designed as
a "casual, fun Irish party" and promises to be a hot ticket
in Hollywood. The guest list will include entertainment
industry executives from the US and Ireland, including
actors, actresses, directors and producers, as well as
gaming and IT executives involved in the film industry.
"The point is to help people in the film industry to
network with people in LA," she said.

Jordan has just completed filming an adaptation of Pat
McCabe's Breakfast on Pluto, starring Cillian Murphy and
Liam Neeson.

Sheridan is currently completing work on Get Rich or Die
Tryin', starring the rapper 50 Cent, which is also due for
release this year.

Holmes, a former DJ at Belfast's Sugarsweet Club, wrote the
music for Stephen Soderbergh's films Out of Sight, Ocean's
Eleven and Ocean's Twelve.

Minister for the Arts, Sport and Tourism John O'Donoghue
yesterday welcomed next year's event, which is sponsored by
American Airlines, the Irish Film Board, Tourism Ireland
and Enterprise Ireland, among others.

© The Irish Times

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