IRA Completes Disarmament





It happened in secret, details of what was destroyed have not been made public, and the initial reaction of Protestant unionists showed that huge elements of doubt and distrust remain.

But an independent international commission and two clergymen certified Monday that the Irish Republican Army had turned over the bullets, guns, blasting caps, bombs and plastic explosives that kept much of Britain on edge for more than 35 years.

It happened in secret, details of what was destroyed have not been made public, and the initial reaction of Protestant unionists showed that huge elements of doubt and distrust remain.

But an independent international commission and two clergymen certified Monday that the Irish Republican Army had turned over the bullets, guns, blasting caps, bombs and plastic explosives that kept much of Britain on edge for more than 35 years.

The chairman of the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning, retired Canadian Gen. John de Chastelain, said the eight-year process of putting the last of the IRA's weapons "beyond use" was completed Saturday. "This can be the end of the use of the gun in Irish politics," he said at a news conference in Belfast.

The commission considers the file closed on IRA arms, and gave its report containing that conclusion to the governments of Ireland and Britain.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair, for whom progress in the Northern Ireland peace process has been one of the top achievements of his eight years in office, hailed the development as "a step of unparalleled magnitude."

Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern called it a "landmark development of historical significance."

Gerry Adams, leader of the IRA-linked political party Sinn Fein, who had urged the IRA to abandon its armed struggle, called the announcement an unprecedented step toward building "a new Ireland."

Urging the unionists to re-form a joint government that collapsed in 2002, Adams said the IRA's move was not a tactical maneuver.

"I understand and appreciate that unionists need space to absorb what all this means," Adams said. "I would ask them to reflect upon the potential which is now created, and to see it as an opportunity."

But the Rev. Ian Paisley, leader of the most popular party in the Protestant unionist community, was having none of it.

Paisley, who supports keeping Northern Ireland in a union with Britain, insisted that neither the commission nor the Roman Catholic and Methodist clergymen who participated in the decommissioning had anything more to go on than the IRA's word.



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