The Guardian May 24, 2000


Dramatic IRA move lifts Irish peace

by Steve Lawton

Yet again, Irish Republicanism has raised the positive stakes in the peace 
process, declaring that "the IRA leadership will initiate a process that 
will completely and verifiably put IRA arms beyond use".

The IRA declared they will re-engage the Independent International 
Commission on Decommissioning (IICD), headed by General John de Chastelain. 
Former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari and African National Congress 
Secretary General Cyril Ramaphosa will be responsible for IRA arms dump 
inspections.

This came after two days of concentrated discussions between British Prime 
Minister Tony Blair, Irish Premier Bertie Ahern, and the north's parties at 
Hillsborough Castle.

US President Bill Clinton applauded the IRA's announcement as a "truly 
historic step". Leader of the SDLP John Hume said: "It's all very positive 
and I want to see a positive response now from all parties."

UUP leader David Trimble responded with optimism tempered by his usual 
pragmatic caution. Developments are awaited, but only the ultra-hardline 
unionists could see the IRA's magic words as simply a trick.

Leaders of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and in the Tory Party argue 
the IRA failed to say weapons would be put permanently beyond use, but the 
unionist consensus is moving ahead of this.

The "Group of Seven", representing commercial, industrial and trade union 
support for the political process and including the Irish Congress of Trade 
Unions, Institute of Directors, Northern Chamber of Commerce and the 
Confederation of British Industry, said the Hillsborough proposals 
represented a "major advance towards a durable peace and political 
stability".

The IRA rightly expect the Irish and (especially) the British Governments 
to "fulfil their commitments under the Good Friday Agreement and the Joint 
Statement".

The letter and spirit of this process the IRA have taken beyond what any 
other participant has, under intense unjust pressure to act in a unilateral 
way. And that's despite its dogged adherence to the most important 
demonstration of IRA commitment  its cease-fire.

But at the same time there is disquiet over the reaction to the Policing 
Commission head Chris Patten's proposals for reform of the Royal Ulster 
Constabulary. Parliament is due to enact legislation to create the Northern 
Ireland Police Service.

Sinn F<130>in Vice-President Pat Docherty warned: "We need to establish a 
non-partisan, non-political police force that nationalists and republicans 
can recommend young nationalists to join and that will serve the entire 
community."

At heart, the vast majority  even beyond the over 70 percent cross-
community vote for the Good Friday Agreement in May 1998  want to get to 
the point, as the IRA statement puts it, "in which Irish republicans and 
unionists can, as equals, pursue our respective political objectives 
peacefully".

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