IRA decommissioning complete - de Chastelain

Monday, September 26, 2005

A report confirming that the IRA has fully decommissioned all of its armaments has been submitted to the British and Irish governments on Monday (September 26, 2005).

The Chairman of the decommissioning body, General John de Chastelain met representitives of both governments, before releasing details of the report at a press conference in Belfast. A partial catalogue of the arms stock was included, as well as the statements of two independent observers present at the decommissioning process. The observers are a Catholic priest, and a Methodist minister.

Both witnesses stressed their independence and de Chastelain commented that it was clear from their observations that the weapons had been gathered from individuals and put beyond use. De Chastelain refused to be drawn on details of the exact numbers of weapons decommissioned, the IRA having agreed to decommissioning based on confidentiality. The decommissioning panel did make comments that the weapons decommissioned did correspond with the estimates of weapons held, included a mix of new and old weapons, including surface to air missiles and heavy machine guns.

General de Chastelain, along with Andrew Sens and Tauno Nieminen, has been in Ireland overseeing this latest round of decommissioning since September. Before now, they had been allowed to witness three acts of decommissioning. However, lack of details in the reports provided afterwards meant that opponents questioned the moves.

Statements from both governments, as well as the major Northern Irish political leaders, are expected later on Monday.

The IRA announced that it was calling an end to its armed campaign in July, and ordered members not to take part in any other activities. The Unionist paramilitary UDA had withdrawn from the decommissioning after initial talks in 1999. de Chastelain indicated inventory of decommissioned weapons will not be published until full paramilitary decommissioning is complete.

Initial reactions

DUP MP Nigel Dodds said that decommissioning was always required for "building and instilling confidence in the unionist community", and that "it was absolutely vital to have that visual aspect."

UUP leader Sir Reg Empey said that the report needed to make clear that absolutely all arms had been put beyond use.

SDLP leader Mark Durkan said that both governments must now move forward with implementing the Good Friday Agreement.

Sinn Fein's Alex Maskey called the day "historic", commenting that the responsibility now rests with the DUP and the governments to move forward.

During the press conference, General de Chastelain faced critics who questioned the truthfulness of the process. He responded with "We have no Doubt ... We have nothing to gain by misleading you."