IRA in split over weapons handover

Danielle Ni Dhighe nidhighe at
Sun Apr 14 16:10:23 MDT 2002

London Times
14 April 2002

IRA in split over weapons handover
By Liam Clarke

An IRA army convention will have to be held before any further acts
of decommissioning can take place. The widespread opposition of
grassroot members to decommissioning means that a question mark now
hangs over the continuation of the process.

Last year the IRA's seven-strong army council approved just two
acts of decommissioning before they would need to be reconsulted.

Security sources believe that an act of decommissioning probably
occurred nine days ago on April 5. Gerry Kelly, the Sinn Fein
assembly member for North Belfast, travelled to Co Donegal that
morning as part of the preparations.

Those opposed to the process are thought to include Thomas "Slab"
Murphy, the IRA's chief of staff, who has had a number of
meetings with leading dissidents. Gerry Adams, the president of Sinn
Fein and a member of the army council, was pushing for the second act
of decommissioning for more than a month and had hoped it would
happen before the meeting of the Ulster Unionist Council on March 9.
However, he agreed to wait until after Easter to minimise dissent and
facilitate wider consultation.

In the interim a number of assurances were given by the British and
Irish governments to ease the move. They have agreed to use their
best influence to have three IRA suspects being held in Colombia on
terrorism charges returned to Ireland to serve their sentences if
they are convicted.

Assurances have also been given that on-the-run terrorists will be
allowed to return home without facing prison sentences. The British
government is preparing to make these proposals public next month.
They are thought to involve a truth and reconciliation element, with
fugitive offenders admitting their crimes and being released on
licence. About 60 people are expected to benefit.

Later this month Dr John Reid, the Northern Ireland secretary, will
speak about normalising the security situation and may suggest bases
for closure. This is part of the reciprocation for decommissioning
designed to encourage the IRA to continue the process.

Most security sources now accept that Adams, Martin McGuinness and
their inner circle are committed to the peace process, to
decommissioning and to winding down the IRA, or if this is not
possible, of separating it from Sinn Fein.

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