IRA weapons decommissioned

Monday, September 26, 2005

In a lunchtime press conference in Belfast, retired Canadian general John de Chastelain, head of the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning, announced that all the weapons of the Provisional IRA have been "put beyond use" – generally interpreted as buried in concrete.

The IICD – de Chastelain, U.S. diplomat Andrew D. Sens, and Finnish Brigadier Tauno Nieminen – have been overseeing the latest round of decommissioning since early September, and reported that the quantity of weapons destroyed was in line with estimates provided by the British and Irish security services. The decommissioning was witnessed by two churchmen, Catholic priest Father Alex Reid and former Methodist president Rev. Harold Good, who said "The experience of seeing this with our own eyes, on a minute-to-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."

No photographs were taken of the decommissioning, as there was a desire to avoid giving the impression that the IRA has been defeated, but many in the Unionist community remain sceptical that the decommissioning has been effective.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair described this as an important step in the transition to peace, while Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said that it is a landmark development. The two governments will issue a joint statement .