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News about the Irish & Irish American culture, music, news, sports. This is hosted by the Irish Aires radio show on KPFT-FM 90.1 in Houston, Texas (a Pacifica community radio station)
October 02, 2005
Loyalist Rule Out Surrender of Arms
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News about Ireland and the Irish
GU 10/02/05 Loyalists Rule Out Surrender Of Arms
NH 10/02/05 McGuinness Willing To Talk To Loyalist
SB 10/02/05 DUP Needs To Decommission Its Scepticism
SB 10/02/05 Opin: Paisley Left Perplexed & Wrong-Footed
II 10/02/05 Two Cheers For Disarmament
II 10/02/05 We Share An Island, And Must Share Our Future
DI 10/02/05 EDITORIAL: Victim Vindicated
II 10/02/05 IRA Never Had Need Of Huge Arsenal
II 10/02/05 SF No Different Than Other Politicians
Loyalists Rule Out Surrender Of Arms
UVF commander rejects calls to follow the republican lead
and says they have not spoken to de Chastelain
Henry McDonald, Ireland editor
Sunday October 2, 2005
Loyalist terrorists have rejected calls for them to follow
the IRA and decommission their weapons.
In an exclusive interview with The Observer, one of the
leaders of the Ulster Volunteer Force confirmed that the
organisation would not be disarming. "¿Decommissioning
isn't even on our radar screen and is unlikely to be in the
future," he said.
The UVF commander added that the organisation had not
spoken to General De Chastelain's Independent International
Commission on Decommissioning for almost four years.
The Observer has also learnt that the largest loyalist
paramilitary force, the Ulster Defence Association, is
refusing to decommission. Its membership in the heartland
of Ulster loyalism, the Greater Shankill, has warned that
there will be no arms surrendered to match last month's IRA
move that put most of its arsenal beyond use.
Last week the Irish Foreign Minister, Dermot Ahern, said
there had been discussions with the loyalists about
disarmament - a claim rejected by the UVF leadership.
"There has been no contact with Dublin for the last 18
months," the UVF commander said. "So I don't know who the
hell Dublin is talking to. The UVF has made clear there is
only one link we will use between ourselves and the Irish
government and that is the Dublin trade unionist Chris
Hudson. If they don't want to use that envoy then they
won't be talking to us."
On possible UVF decommissioning, he said: "Why should the
UVF give up its weapons to facilitate Sinn Fein's entry
into government in Northern Ireland? What possible gain is
there for working-class loyalists in that?
"There has been a lot of nonsense in the media since Monday
that the UVF is going to follow the IRA. It is rubbish
because the UVF doesn't dance to the IRA's tune."
However, he stressed that there was no wish in either wing
of mainstream loyalism to attack the republican community.
The UVF commander was once the organisation's contact with
De Chastelain. But he ruled out any new contact between the
UVF and the Canadian general and his team: "Contact was
broken off by us four years ago and I don't see any chance
of the UVF entering a new dialogue."
He described Sinn Fein claims that Ian Paisley exercised
influence over the loyalist paramilitaries as "totally
laughable" to the UVF. "Let's make this absolutely clear:
the UVF does not and will not listen to the likes of Ian
Paisley or the DUP. They have no influence on our thinking
and I have nothing but contempt for Paisley."
Last week Peter Hain, the Northern Ireland Secretary,
hinted that loyalist leaders could face the full rigour of
the law if they do not follow the IRA's path to
On the prospect of UVF and UDA leaders facing charges such
as Directing Acts of Terrorism, the loyalist source said:
"They could arrest us but the situation in Protestant
working-class areas is already destabilised. Arresting
people who have been central to the peace process would
make a bad situation worse."
He said the UVF would continue to attack the remnants of
the Loyalist Volunteer Force despite calls for an end to
the feud that has cost four lives since the start of the
summer. The LVF would have to disband, especially in the
Greater Belfast area, before the UVF onslaught ended, he
"There is no demand in my community that the UVF give up
its guns. If anything there is pressure that we hold onto
them because many people in that community wonder if, in
the medium to long term, the union is safe," he said.
McGuinness Willing To Talk To Loyalist Paramilitary Groups
(William Graham, Irish News)
Sinn Féin chief negotiator Martin McGuinness has indicated
he would be willing to engage in talks with loyalist
paramilitaries following the IRA's decommissioning move.
Mr McGuinness was speaking to The Irish News from New York
where he said Irish America was "elated" by IRA
He was asked if he would be willing to speak to loyalist
paramilitaries about the arms issue as part of the ongoing
peace process after this week's IRA decommissioning.
Mr McGuinness said the most important thing for "unionist
or loyalist paramilitaries" to do was to stop the violence
they have been engaged in against the Catholic community
and between themselves in recent months.
The Mid-Ulster MP said: "That has to be the top priority.
"The issue of arms, you know, we have never been fixated by
that but I do think that the immediate priority has to be
to get these people to see sense and to stop their
"Given that the IRA has now moved on the issue of arms...
we obviously would attempt to use our influence to
encourage unionist groups to follow the lead given by the
"It is my hope that the IRA's move will have an impact on
unionist paramilitaries and on unionist political leaders.
"Specifically in relation to unionist paramilitaries, I
hope they will as a result of all of that settle down and
recognise the best way forward for all of us is to engage
in dialogue and discussion to build a better future for our
"I would be obviously more than willing to engage with
anyone to try and make that happen."
Mr McGuinness is on an extensive tour of the US and Canada
to explain peace process developments.
On Capitol Hill in Washington Mr McGuinness met 18
Republican and Democratic members of Congress and also had
meetings with senators Ted Kennedy, Chris Dodd and Hillary
Mr McGuinness said that within Irish America and those
Congress members who took a very keen interest in Ireland
"people are elated and satisfied" at decommissioning.
"There is no doubt whatsoever people here are well
satisfied with the republican input and are now looking to
see whether the DUP through its leader Ian Paisley will
rise to the golden opportunity to move the situation
forward," Mr McGuinness said.
He acknowledged that Mr Paisley does need some political
space after the events of last Monday, and the de
Chastelain report, to absorb the full import of all of
"We are prepared to sit down and talk with the DUP despite
our many political differences," he said.
It was important, said Mr McGuinness, to get the political
Meanwhile, SDLP leader Mark Durkan warned Tony Blair
yesterday that the Good Friday Agreement wasn't his to
Mr Durkan said: "The DUP is submitting a 50-page document
to the British government about undermining the agreement,
undermining Patten and undermining the rule of law. They
are playing the same game Sinn Féin have played for years –
dragging out negotiations in the hope of wringing
"The task for Tony Blair is now to hardwire the Good Friday
Agreement into the politics of the north instead of letting
himself be pushed around endlessly by the demands of the
The DUP confirmed yesterday that it had sent a 50-page
document to Downing Street and it is understood this calls
for a number of confidence building measures for the
unionist community and deals with issues such as investment
October 2, 2005
DUP Needs To Decommission Its Scepticism
02 October 2005 By Paul T Colgan
"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."
General John de Chastelain, September 26, 2005.
Keen observers of the peace process should read the above
quote from the decommissioning boss carefully - they are
going to be hearing it repeated ad nauseum over the coming
months and years.
Despite the assured delivery from de Chastelain and his
colleagues at last Monday's press conference, the euphoric
reaction of Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, the giddy excitement of
Tony Blair and the endorsement of none other than US
president George W Bush, Ian Paisley and his party are far
from convinced that the IRA has actually decommissioned.
The retired Canadian general spoke for about 45 minutes on
his weeks spent in the wilderness. He witnessed the
dismantling of machine guns, Semtex, flame throwers,
ground-to-air missiles, mortars, grenades, rifles and
Finnish brigadier Tauno Nieminen counted the weaponry,
diligently matching it against the estimates provided by
the Garda Special Branch and British intelligence. Andrew
Sens took notes.
Churchmen Harold Good and Alec Reid were close at hand,
almost agog at the sheer scale of the arsenal that lay
Last Saturday, de Chastelain bade farewell to the senior
IRA representative who had overseen the collection and
delivery of the weaponry. The following day he reconvened
with Sens and Nieminin to write up what they had seen and
Last Monday, they briefed the two governments that the IRA
was no longer able to wage armed struggle, then strode into
the conference room at Culloden Hotel on the outskirts of
While these five men had quietly gone about their work,
Paisley was meanwhile preparing to condemn the entire
"The falsehood of the century," claimed the DUP leader
moments after the press conference. "The hidden things of
darkness are surely coming to light when the extent of the
shameful betrayal of truth will be uncovered. Ulster is not
for sale and will not be sold."
Ignoring de Chastelain's contention that the weaponry
decommissioned matched the two governments' assessments of
what the IRA possessed, Paisley instead latched on to his
statement that he could never be certain that all of the
IRA's weapons had been destroyed.
This will be the DUP's constant refrain for the next year
and beyond. The party has said it would only consider
sharing power with Sinn Féin when it sees next January's
International Monitoring Commission (IMC) report on
In the interim, the IMC's next report, which is due later
this month, is expected to back up Garda security briefings
that IRA activity has come to an end. Such a report will
boost the standing of republicans in the eyes of the two
governments and put further pressure on the DUP to come on
The government, however, views the January report as
crucial. According to one government source, if the IMC
gives the IRA a clean bill of health, the DUP must engage
with Sinn Féin.
"What the DUP had to say last week was to be expected, but
if the IMC delivers a report in January saying the IRA is
finished, then the DUP has to decide what it's going to
do," said the source. "They'll have no option other than to
take the tough decisions."
The Department of Foreign Affairs has certainly toughened
its line on the DUP in recent weeks. In the wake of the
Northern Bank robbery and Robert McCartney killing it had
rounded on Sinn Féin.
Now it has unionism in its sights.
"If the DUP wants to manage its own affairs, then it'll
have to share power with Sinn Féin," said a department
source. "January will prove to be the real acid test as to
whether the DUP is really willing to embrace power sharing.
After January, the real pressure will come on them to
Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern is meanwhile
unimpressed by the DUP's reaction to the ongoing anti-
Catholic attacks in north Antrim. He recently visited
nationalists who had come under attack from loyalists.
"The DUP has to stand up against sectarianism," said the
source. "The minister feels that it hasn't shown leadership
when it comes to speaking out against attacks on
However, despite the new robust approach to unionism by the
Department of Foreign Affairs, its current strategy is
predicated on the assumption that the DUP will be forced to
play ball. Any talk of a possible 'Plan B' is palmed away
as unduly pessimistic.
The history of the DUP would suggest that it is not
entirely uncomfortable with the status of political pariah.
Paisley has made a political career of standing outside the
He recently told an audience in Ballymena that there was no
real appetite among unionists for power sharing with Sinn
Féin and, putting aside the visits to Downing Street, the
DUP seems content to thumb its nose at the two governments.
Government sources remain optimistic that a significant
bulk of senior DUP members are keen on the idea of
executive positions in the North's Assembly. The much-
remarked-on divide between the party's Free Presbyterian
wing and the supposedly more secular, pragmatic wing still
provides grounds for those hopeful of a deal.
They suggest that figures such as deputy leader Peter
Robinson are itching to walk into Stormont if only the
circumstances were correct. This analysis took something of
a battering last December when it seemed for a brief period
that the pragmatists would win out in their bid for an
arrangement with Sinn Féin.
Instead, Paisley's now infamous "sackcloth and ashes''
speech, in which he called for a very public humiliation of
the IRA, is understood to have made a deal impossible.
Intriguingly, it has been suggested that the speech was
written by Ian Paisley Jnr and did not have the approval of
the likes of Robinson and north Belfast MP Nigel Dodds.
The DUP denies that there is any gulf, but suspicions
persist that had Robinson been in a position to veto the
comments, the speech would never have seen daylight.
At present unionism is floundering. Paisley's bluster has
been met with incomprehension in British and US political
circles. After making a huge point of pursuing IRA
decommissioning in the past decade, unionists now appear at
a loss as to how they should react to last week's news.
Republicanism, on the other hand, has never been in finer
fettle. Putting aside the news that Sinn Féin will not be
allowed to fundraise in the US during Martin McGuinness'
visit, the party is now back in favour.
With the IMC expected to confirm that the IRA has faded
into the background in the coming months, it is only a
matter of time before it becomes apparent whether the DUP
pragmatists can call the shots.
Opin: Paisley Left Perplexed And Wrong-Footed By IRA
02 October 2005 By Tom McGurk
Since the IRA's final act of decommissioning, no
interviewer has yet chosen to ask the DUP the obvious
question: if you, as a member of the DUP, had been allowed
to view the decommissioning process and even to bring a
film crew with you, how would you have found proof that the
IRA had decommissioned every weapon?
The answer, of course, is that there is no way of proving
such a thing, either you accept that the republican
movement is for real or you don't.
The problem now is working out whether the DUP is for real.
Its reactions to the IRA's decommissioning varied from the
absurd to the surreal. It is, naturally, a mere
smokescreen, erected for a variety of reasons.
In the first instance, the DUP is divided down the middle
about the whole concept of sharing power with Sinn Féin.
The religious wing of the party led by the Paisley family
is in the 'sackcloth and ashes' mode; dominated by biblical
paradigms, it requires at least that Sinn Féin be somehow
politically 'born again' before being allowed to enter the
sacred temple of Stormont.
The secular wing of the DUP, led by Peter Robinson and
Jeffrey Donaldson, can barely hide their political
ambitions, but have to be satisfied with an enigmatic word
dropped here and there during press conferences, against
the general background of Paisley's ranting.
During the Cold War, 'Kremlin-watching' became an art form
in itself; now DUP-watching is assuming zoological
proportions, like some new form of political anthropology.
For Paisley - who, like Beelzebub in John Milton's Paradise
Lost, has spent a lifetime insisting that he would "rather
reign in hell than serve in heaven'' - the spectre of being
the other half of the political structure that would bring
former army council members of the IRA into devolved
government is a persisting nightmare.
From his earliest days, he has opposed any move that would
lessen unionist majoritarianism, and he has been the
personification of a virulent strain of sectarianism that
has consistently played on the fears of his followers and
dehumanised his opponents.
Ulster was the biblical Promised Land and Paisley the Moses
figure entrusted with leading the chosen people of the Lord
to salvation, surrounded by enemies who were distinguished
by their lies, treachery and persistence. At that level,
power-sharing is tantamount to supping with the devil.
But Paisley's day job is as leader of the major unionist
political party, and after 40 years banging on the back
door, he is now occupying the drawing room. In some ways,
his dilemma is truly Faustian. To achieve the final goal of
a lifetime spent battling his bitter enemies, he is now
required to lower his sword and sit down and work with
them. Is that heaven or still hell?
The divisions within the DUP merely echo the wider
divisions within unionism itself. Increasing numbers of
them see continued direct rule as the least bad alternative
to devolved government - because of the political machine
that the republican movement brings to it.
In the seven years since the Good Friday Agreement,
unionists have been aghast at the pace of change, and are
seemingly incapable of comprehending that the creation of
equality of citizenship does not in any way undermine their
Despite the fact that the North is an economic basket case,
and that the levels of poverty and unemployment in loyalist
heartland areas are rising, the unionists are still like
rabbits frozen in the political headlights.
In hindsight, for example, the struggle to achieve
decommissioning was the engine for the destruction of the
Ulster Unionist Party. David Trimble himself was
decommissioned before the IRA's arms were. Imagine how
different the North would now be, had the UUP spent the
last seven years working the devolved institutions instead
of collapsing them.
Imagine, too, the political distance this would have opened
up between them and the DUP. But by their insistence on
decommissioning, the UUP turned their backs on a political
opportunity, and effectively brought the IRA back to the
very heart of affairs.
Apart from the fact that the whole idea of decommissioning
was always nonsense – the IRA could simply re-arm at any
time just as quickly as it could decommission - the
destruction of its arms by any guerrilla group can mean any
number of things. And as we can see now that it has
happened, it has merely given the DUP yet another chance to
move the perpetual goalposts across the unionist's
We simply don't know if, come the new year and all other
things being equal, the DUP will enter devolved government.
The reality is that they don't even know themselves.
Paisley will attempt during the coming negotiations to see
how much of the Belfast Agreement he can trade in return
for entering devolved government.
This tactic should be firmly resisted.
Paisley is now like a pantomime giant, lumbering all over
the place in two minds and increasingly uncertain what to
do. The seven-year-long decommissioning debacle has simply
been one long political cul-de-sac; unionism finds itself
unable to accept the evidence of its own eyes.
Not once in 40 years has Paisley ever successfully
politically negotiated anything with anybody, nor has it
ever been his style. Self-elected, self-appointed, self-
ordained, what he leads is not a democratic political
party, but a straggling, sneering bunch of camp followers
hanging onto his every word.
Vote for me, he has been saying for four decades, and I
will not sell you out.
Vote for me, and Ulster will be safe from pernicious
republicanism. Vote for me, the man who will never
Well, now he has the votes, and at long last we can all sit
back and watch him deliver. But another characteristic of
his 40 years in politics has been his instinct to stir it
up as much as possible, and then never be around when the
logic hits the fan. And one suspects that he is far too old
to go changing.
Two Cheers For Disarmament
AFTER seven years of broken promises, the IRA last week
finally did what it should have done by the year 2000,
under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. It fully
decommissioned its weaponry. And the IRA did so to the
satisfaction both of the decommissioning body, the Irish
and British Governments, and of the two clerical witnesses
who verified the destruction of its arsenal. Last Monday
was indeed an historic day, but one that deserves two
cheers rather than three. Two cheers that it finally
happened, and a sigh of grateful relief that IRA violence,
hopefully, is over; and not just for now, but for ever.
This last act of decommissioning, however, was seriously
flawed in one respect: transparency. The exercise failed to
accomplish what the IRA's final act of disarmament was
meant to achieve.
The manner of decommissioning failed to create confidence
and generate public trust, where that trust most needs to
be established; not least among those unionists who have
borne the brunt of IRA violence for some three decades.
What IRA weapons were destroyed, we do not know. How many
guns and missiles were destroyed, we have not been told. We
have been assured that IRA weapons were put beyond use, and
that we should accept the word of General John de
Chastelain, and the assurances of Reverend Harold Good, and
Fr Alec Reid. We do, but only by making an act of faith in
General de Chastelain was the liquidator who presided over
the voluntary liquidation of the IRA's assets: its
weaponry. And he managed to do so, without being sure that
he had secured possession of all that organisation's
military assets. He refused to publish an inventory of what
had been destroyed. And neither would the British
Government release its intelligence estimates of IRA arms,
citing security concerns as the reason for non-disclosure.
Such great secrecy surrounding so much activity, and with
no evidence produced of what actually happened, is less
than wholly reassuring to the public.
In all the circumstances, however, the symbolism of the
IRA's final disarmament act may have been more significant
than the number and range of weapons destroyed. For the
IRA, by surrendering its arms, was also abandoning its goal
of achieving Irish unity by violent means, in defiance of
the wishes of the Irish people.
If the IRA was not admitting defeat in its so-called armed
struggle, then it was admitting failure for its methods,
while accepting that its political goals, henceforth, can
only be advanced through exclusively peaceful means; not
via the armalite and ballot box, but through the ballot box
Whether the IRA has abandoned all forms of paramilitary and
criminal activity, its action (or inaction) will reveal in
time. In the meantime, the Independent Monitoring
Commission (IMC) will review the IRA's progress in this
regard when it publishes two reports, one later this month,
and in January. Nevertheless, the IRA decision to disarm
and, effectively to disband, does potentially change the
nature of the republican movement. The IRA, which is the
military wing of that movement and which also claims to be
the real government of Ireland, has always dominated the
political wing, Sinn Fein.
No more, it seems. If the IRA has really gone away, as it
now claims, and left Sinn Fein at the political crossroads
to fend for itself, the party can now hope to advance down
the constitutional road towards greater public acceptance.
It can only do so, however, when it has fully shed its
paramilitary and criminal baggage. Until that clearly
happens, Sinn Fein will continue to be regarded with
justifiable scepticism by a public with long memories of
past bloody events.
We Share An Island, And Must Share Our Future
MICHAEL McDowell and I share at least one small aspect in
our respective family histories. His grandfather, Eoin Mac
Neill, a leader of the Irish Volunteers in the early 20th
century, was born in the Antrim coastal village of Glenarm.
It's also where my father was stationed as a sergeant in
the RUC in the late Sixties/early Seventies.
It was while we were living in the police station there
that the Troubles began. Little did my father realise that
the next 30 years of his career were to be spent under a
24-hour threat and that he would experience incidents that
were to be etched on to his mind.
On occasions he had to assess which members of a family
would be strong enough in character to identify the bodies
of their loved ones after a particularly gruesome loyalist
atrocity. One time his work included looking for the head
of a Catholic victim of republican violence. He was on duty
in Belfast on the day of Bloody Friday when 22 bombs went
off around the city, killing nine people and injuring 130
others. He had the frustrating task of trying to move
people away from danger and into safe areas, when it was
far from clear where that might be.
The men and women of the RUC know that on occasions they
could have done things better or acted differently, but
there is no doubt that without them, our society would have
descended into a civil war. In total, they were involved in
55 deaths, some of them controversial but all of them
tragic. In contrast, 304 officers were killed, never mind
the many others who were injured or died through stress-
However, what he and the other men and women of the RUC
strove to achieve was to preserve life and property on the
one hand and on the other to create a space for politics to
work. And hopefully they have succeeded.
I feel strongly that the greatest tribute we could pay to
those men and women who died is that we build a shared
future within Northern Ireland, on this island and between
these islands, inorder that such conflict neverhappens
It was while standing in the memorial garden at police
headquarters, Belfast, with Jim MacDonald, chairman of the
Trustees of the RUC (George Cross) Foundation, discussing a
talk I was going to be giving later that day, that he
reminded me of his own version of the words of the Ulster
poet John Hewitt, in a discussion that took place in the
Irish Times on the complexities of the Irish/British
identity in the Seventies. His words were:
I am a Belfast man
I am an Ulster man
I am an Irish man and I am British
And those last two are interchangeable
And I am European
And anyone who demeans any one part of me demeans me as a
Certainly that's a reality that most people in Northern
Ireland could buy into: a recognition of the different
influences on their character that might also include the
words Indian, Estonian, Polish and others who are now
moving into our increasingly diverse society.
Just as Michael McDowell sees his republicanism as
representing the orange, white and green, when I look at
the union flag I am conscious that it also includes St
Patrick's cross. As a unionist, it is incumbent on me to
ensure that whatever unionism argues for in Northern
Ireland, it is to create an identity which encompasses the
very Irishness of its make-up.
Paisleyism is not unionism. For me, unionism was more aptly
defined with the words of Sir James Craig when he said, "We
are prepared to work for the betterment of the people of
Ireland, not to quarrel, not to continue political strife."
Or Lord Edward Carson when he instructed unionists to
demonstrate, "in their acts of government a tolerance, a
fairness and a justice towards all classes and to all
religions of the community".
Unionism, to be both true to its values and to be
successful, must seek to create a society which is
inclusive, tolerant and respectful of the diversity of all
its races, religions and ethnic groups within Northern
Ireland and the broader family of the United Kingdom.
Indeed, a place where we treat others as we ourselves would
wish to be treated.
The Agreement in 1998 created a basis through which the
political stability of Northern Ireland could be maintained
as part of the United Kingdom. At the same time, change
could be achieved if a majority of the people who live in
Northern Ireland are persuaded that a united Ireland was in
their better interest. It is a democratic battle for the
hearts and minds of the people.
It has been said that the union of Northern Ireland with
the rest of the United Kingdom will only be destroyed by
unionists themselves. Listening to the words of some who
describe themselves as unionists, the actions of some
members of the Orange Order and of loyalists in Belfast
recently, one can see how they undermine the very union
they claim to protect.
They have not recognised the new dispensation after the
Agreement. In part, that is a failure of leadership, whose
job it is to create the confidence or direction to enable
them to embrace the new challenges and the opportunity that
has been created for producing real peace and stability in
Northern Ireland and more generally on this island.
If unionism is to win this battle for hearts and minds, it
must follow the words of Carson and Craig and promote a
shared society in Northern Ireland
Minister McDowell's call to republicans and nationalists to
build relationships with those of us in the unionist
tradition is a welcome development. It will mean that
republicans and nationalists will also engage unionists in
battle for those same hearts and minds. To prove that a
united Ireland would be a viable option for the people who
live here, then first of all they will have to make
Northern Ireland work. They may then prove to their
unionist neighbours, who make up around one fifth of the
population on this island, that they can work in harmony
Even if, as is likely, we remain two separate countries,
there is no reason why we cannot build co-operation,
identifying areas where we can work together for mutual
benefit. But it will also require all of us to move from a
politics of philosophy to one of delivery. In doing so we
will have to focus on Northern Ireland's economic and
social bottom line, so enabling us to attract new
industries and begin to compete in the global economy.
So the 1998 Agreement mandated by the people on this island
creates a whole new basis by which we build relationships.
There is now reasonable evidence that there are now two
communities on this island. One is largely made up of those
that want to share it in a peaceful way in which we all
prosper. The other wants to continue the battles of causing
further division and hurt.
True republicanism and true unionism must live out their
core principles by creating an inclusive vision of
Irishness and Britishness, leaving behind those exclusive
visions that brought so much tragedy to the people who live
here. It requires us all to be competitive, but
constructively so in a manner that increases the benefits
Perhaps the people on this island can reflect on the words
of King George V at the opening of the Northern Ireland
parliament when he stated:
"I speak from a full heart when I pray that my coming to
Ireland today may prove to be the first step towards an end
of strife amongst her people, whatever their race or creed.
In that hope, I appeal to all Irish men to pause, to
stretch out the hand of forbearance and conciliation, to
forgive and forget and to join in making for the land which
they love a new era of peace, contentment, and good will."
We should never forget the last 30 years but let the memory
of its many tragedies drive us all the harder to ensure
that it never happens again. Let us all grasp this
opportunity that has been created. And let battle commence
for the hearts and minds of the people of Northern Ireland
and of all these islands in all their diversity.
Trevor Ringland is a former Irish rugby international, UUP
spokesman on sport and co-author of 'The Long Peace: A
Future Vision of Unionism'
EDITORIAL: Victim Vindicated
John Boyle had a long and painful fight to prove his
innocence. He has also had to endure a similar journey in a
bid to receive compensation for spending 12 years in prison
on trumped-up charges.
However, as Daily Ireland reveals today, the Belfast man is
one step nearer towards receiving deserved compensation for
Mr Boyle was sentenced to 12 years in 1977 for his alleged
role in a gun attack on an RUC patrol in Belfast the
He always maintained his innocence and was finally
vindicated in 2003 when the Court of Appeal quashed his
It emerged that a fake confession had been added to notes
taken by RUC officers who interviewed Mr Boyle.
Disgracefully, but not surprisingly, none of the officers
involved in framing him has ever been charged and probably
never will be.
As Mr Boyle rightly points out, the officers who
deliberately ruined his life are "sitting at home enjoying
the good life" when they should be behind bars.
His bid for compensation will come before Belfast's High
Court next month.
It is hoped that Mr Boyle will eventually receive a
settlement he is happy with.
How many people have found themselves is a similar
How many other lives have been ruined by people who were
supposed to be upholding law and order?
This case could open the floodgates for many other victims
to come forward.
Adequate compensation is the least they deserve.
The IRA Never Really Had Need Of Its Huge Arsenal Of
SENIOR security sources were satisfied last week that the
IRA had, as it said and as had been observed by General de
Chastelain and the two clergy men, decommissioned the bulk,
if not all, of its "military" equipment. As the General
said at his press conference at the start of last week the
equipment he observed being decommissioned at a secret
venue tallied with the estimate inventories of IRA arms
supplied to him by both governments.
Those estimates are well known and consist, in the main, of
arms imported into the Republic from Libya between 1985 and
1986 and from Norway in 1984. The Norwegian arms consisted
of some 40 Heckler and Koch assault rifles stolen from an
The amount of arms and explosives that remained in the IRA
armoury has been deduced by knowledge of exactly what came
in from Libya and Norway minus what was subsequently used
by the IRA or seized by police on either side of the
Between August 1985 and September 1986 four shipments of
arms were landed in the Republic under the noses of the
Garda and Customs. Not an inkling had reached the
authorities that the IRA had landed somewhere in the region
of 114-130 tons of arms and had stashed them in underground
The first shipment arrived on August 7, 1985 on board the
Casamara a small cargo ship bought and skippered by the
bankrupted director of Bray Travel, Adrian Hopkins. On
board was around 10 tons of weapons including AK47 rifles,
Brazilian-manufactured Tuarus automatic pistols and
Bulgarian-manufactured RPG rockets.
The Casamara sailed back to Tunis this time under a new
name, the Kula and returned on October 2 with between 10
and 14 tons of weapons. On board this time, along with more
rifles and pistols, were the huge, Second World War heavy
machine guns known as Dushkas which the IRA hoped to use
against British Army helicopters in south Armagh.
The following April the Kula arrived back in Ireland with
another shipment of between 14 and 20 tons of weapons
including the SAM ground-to-air missile system which was
meant to make the skies of Northern Ireland unusable by
Army helicopters. (In the event the IRA was never able to
master the SAM system. One missile was fired at a
helicopter in Co Fermanagh and the crew reported a vapour
trial but it exploded harmlessly and a piece of its fin was
found in a field). The Kula's second run also brought the
IRA the first shipment of a total of six tons of the
explosive semtex, which was to revolutionise its terrorist
In September 1986 the biggest-ever shipment reached the IRA
on board a new, larger 'Since September 11 . . . the IRA
arsenal was a millstone around Sinn Fein's neck.'
ship, the Villa. There were between 80 and 90 tons of
weapons on board including a further 10 SAMs, over 1,000
AK47s, medium machine guns, and more semtex.
Where all this weaponry was landed remains a mystery. It
was claimed in statements made by Adrian Hopkins after his
arrest that the material was brought ashore in small boats
at Clogga Strand in Co Wicklow.
While the Gardai and Government remained oblivious to the
smuggling of an arsenal that almost matched that of the
Defence Forces, word began to emerge in mid-1986 about big
shipments of arms reaching the IRA. Government sources and
Sinn Fein dismissed claims at the time even after the
gardai found rifles and boxes marked "property of the
Libyan Army" in Co Roscommon that year.
There was a stunned reaction at Government level when a
French Customs vessel intercepted a small freight ship, the
Eksund, off Brest in October 1987. The Government
dispatched the head of the Special Branch, Assistant
Commissioner Eugene Crowley, who visited the French naval
base where the weapons had been unloaded. He telephoned a
senior official in the Department of Justice that night
from the Ambassador's residence in Paris with the shocking
news that the French had intercepted some 150 tons of
weapons including 1,000 mortars, a million rounds of
ammunition, 20 SAM missile systems, 430 grenades, 120 RPGs
and another dozen of the heavy Dushka machine guns.
Even after this, Government and the gardai, it seemed,
remained in denial. Senior government sources continued to
discount claims that a huge arsenal had reached the IRA. It
would not be until 1991 when Col Gaddafi began to resume
relations with the West that the full extent of the IRA
arsenal emerged. As part of his deal to break the trade
embargos which were wrecking the Libyan economy Gaddafi
supplied a full inventory of the weapons handed over to the
Ironically, by that stage clerical intermediaries acting on
behalf of Gerry Adams had already initiated the process of
secret talks - including meetings at the then Taoiseach,
Charlie Haughey's home at Kinsealy. The IRA leadership
under Adams and McGuinness had already dropped the idea of
using the Libyan weapons to mount a Viet Cong-type
offensive in the North against the security forces. They
had opted, instead, for the "unarmed strategy" that
subsequently emerged in the ceasefires and peace process.
In fact, the bulk of the IRA arsenal lay untouched in the
water-proofed underground bunkers where most of it had been
deposited and was never used.
Only the semtex was to have a truly major impact. As one of
the most easily usable and deadly explosives ever
manufactured the IRA bomb- and mortar-makers incorporated
it into their own deadly "improvised explosive devices"
that have since become the benchmark for terrorist
technology across the world.
Despite the amazing damage wrought in the City of London
and at Canary Wharf between 1993 and 1996 the IRA was still
estimated to have at least four tons of semtex left by the
time the final ceasefire was called in July 1997. It is not
clear how this has been disposed of as since its probable
manufacture in the late Seventies or early Eighties it must
have seriously deteriorated.
Senior security sources have confirmed that this arsenal,
brought to Ireland on the Casamara and Villa between August
1985 and September 1986, constituted the bulk of the
"catalogued" weapons seen being dismantled and rendered
useless by Gen de Chastelain along with a few other bits
and pieces. The "bits and pieces", however, are thought to
involve a small number of powerful sniper rifles which the
PSNI and British Army was particularly keen to see out of
Despite the "momentous" and "historic" references to the
decommissioning last week the fact is that the IRA had
never really any need of the huge arsenal it acquired from
Libya. It stood no chance of a full-frontal assault on the
security forces in the North. By the time the equipment
arrived the British Army and RUC had reached a level of
proficiency in dealing with the IRA which meant an open IRA
offensive would have been crushed with ease and heavy
casualties on the IRA's side. The ageing Soviet-
manufactured weapons were more a liability as shown on the
small number of occasions they were used. The "Tet
Offensive" which hardline IRA figures dreamed off in
Northern Ireland was always a pipedream.
Since September 11, 2001 when the United States came under
attack and the international war on terror began, the IRA
arsenal was a millstone around Sinn Fein's neck. Post 9/11
the IRA would never be able to use its semtex again, let
alone the Dushkas, SAMs and RPGs.
Even before 9/11 the IRA realised the only weapons it would
need would be handguns and maybe sub-machine guns for
conducting its criminal activities, for assassinating
anyone who crossed it and for kneecapping Catholic
teenagers. An unknown number of these handguns, believe to
be at least 200, were sent through the post to safe houses
in the Republic between 1998 and 1999. At his press
conference last week Gen de Chastelain mentioned weapons
before 1996 and it remains unclear whether or not the
handguns that came in from the State are among those he
witnessed being rendered out of commission.
SF Now No Different, Or More Dangerous, Than Any Other
TO JUDGE from some accounts, the happiest man in Ireland
last Monday, or at least the one wearing the broadest
smile, was Gerry Adams, the Provisional movement's
commanding strategist for the last three decades.
The smile on his face had to be partly caused by
satisfaction at pulling off something - the effective
completion of IRA decommissioning - that nearly everybody
else for so long had thought an impossibility. But if his
grin was a particularly wide one it was also because he
knew that he had extracted as high a price as anyone could
get for doing so - and that these two achievements together
perhaps suggested he possessed that greatest of gifts, a
The press conference hosted by General John de Chastelain
highlighted two important aspects of Adams's long personal
and political journey. It first of all signalled that the
last bridge between his terrorist past and his respectable
future had been burned behind him, opening all sorts of
exciting possibilities, not least a role as international
statesman that many think he yearns for.
Was it just coincidence, one wonders, that he had spent
much of the week before the general's announcement not in
Belfast preparing for the big day but in New York at Bill
Clinton's celebrity poverty fest, rubbing shoulders with
Rupert Murdoch, Condi Rice, Paul Wolfowitz, George Bush
Snr, and other power-brokers?
The other message from the general's press conference was
that it underlined the significant clout Adams and his
colleagues in Sinn Fein now exert or promise to exert in
Irish politics on both sides of the border. Having achieved
dominance in northern nationalist politics through partial
decommissioning, the completion of the process means that
he and his Sinn Fein colleagues can now turn nearly all
their energies and attention on to the South.
Adams's achievement in regard to decommissioning should not
be understated, and southern politicians can be forgiven
for viewing with the utmost trepidation the prospect of
having to compete against an opponent equipped with such
formidable political skills in the coming years.
Decommissioning is the best metaphor of all for Adams's
accomplishment in leading the Provisional IRA out of war
and into politics, a feat which one of his Protestant
clerical friends - not the Rev Harold Good - once likened
to turning the Titanic in a bathtub.
For more than a decade, Adams and his allies swore to the
republican base, to the fearsome gunmen and bombers of the
IRA, that decommissioning was one line in the sand that
their leaders would never cross. Yet slowly and skillfully
he manoeuvred them inch by inch across that line and did so
with hardly a voice raised inprotest, never mind an angry
shot being fired.
Seeing Adams and his colleagues pull off such a coup, is it
any wonder southern politicians tremble with fear and
imagine not just that it can only be a matter of time
before the Provos are pulling the levers of power in Dublin
but that all sorts of fearful possibilities will open up
once they do?
It may be that they have cause to worry, but perhaps not.
Before the southern political establishment freezes like a
rabbit caught in the headlights of a car, it might be well
advised to put the propaganda aside, and consider some
facts and ask some questions.
The first question is this: was IRA decommissioning really
such a difficult nut to crack? After all, it began when the
peace process itself was well advanced and the floor was
already littered with the cadavers of republican holy cows.
The IRA ceasefires were seven years old and the Provisional
leadership had long since conceded the sacred tenet of
post-Treaty republicanism, the principle of consent, when
General de Chastelain put his first IRA gun beyond use. The
ground had been well prepared before it happened.
But what really enabled Adams and his colleagues to
complete decommissioning was the shallowness of their
supporters' politics, nourished as they were not by the
writings of Connolly and Pearse or Marx and Fanon but by
fear and hatred of the Protestants who would burn them in
The truth is that the Provisionals were mostly in the
defenderist not the republican tradition, and in their
world the sectarian imperative ruled. All that mattered to
them was that, politically-speaking, Celtic beat Rangers on
New Year's Day; the Champions League could take a running
jump. Ceasefires could be called, unionist consent conceded
and leadership promises broken just so long as the Prods
didn't like it.
When it came to decommissioning the IRA's precious weapons,
the anger of David Trimble, Ian Paisley, the Orange Order
and other unionists at the inadequacy and lack of
transparency in the process was more than sufficient to
offset any alarm at what had been done. If there was a
slogan that greased the peace process inside the Provos
then it was this: "If it upsets the Prods, then it must be
Gerry Adams and his allies pulled off decommissioning
simply because they knew what made their supporters tick.
That is not a special skill, nor is it a quality that
guarantees them political success in the south. Rather it
is a characteristic that all good politicians should
If the Provos' supporters have shallow political beliefs,
then those of their leaders, to judge by the record of the
last 30 years, are non-existent or, to be more accurate,
they have been embraced and discarded according to fashion
and self-interest and not shaped by principle.
In this reporter's years of writing about the IRA and Sinn
Fein, the Provo leadership has travelled virtually the
entire length of the political spectrum - from flirting
with Trotskyism to closing down hospitals and privatising
school-building; from long hair and beards to smart suits
and whitened teeth; from killing businessmen to courting
them; from a socialistrepublic to a power-sharing Stormont.
The only constant in this saga is that positions were
taken, stances were adopted because they furthered the
search for power, not to impose some secret agenda but
simply for power's sake. In that sense, the Provo
leadership are no different, and pose no greater threat to
the South should they achieve power than many another
politician in the Dail.
Ed Moloney is the author of 'A Secret History of the IRA'
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