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Saturday, December 12, 1998 Published at 07:47 GMT


IRA 'no' to decommissioning

No end in sight to deadlock over IRA weapons

The IRA has "firmly ruled out" the decommissioning of any of its guns or explosives, sources have told the BBC.


BBC Correspondent Tom Coulter: The IRA may be waiting for progress on the Good Friday Agreement
It is understood the organisation's ruling body met in "recent days" to make the decision.

The unambiguous signal came just hours after the Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble insisted in his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize there had to be a "credible beginning" to the handover of weapons.

Prime Minister Tony Blair, speaking to BBC TV tonight in Vienna where he is attending a two-day EU Summit, said: "I wouldn't lay too much stress on one particular report.


Prime Minister Tony Blair giving his reaction in Vienna
"I don't pretend to know the inner workings of the IRA, that's up to them. What I know is the agreement must be implemented.

"My view is very clear, the agreement that we negotiated in all its terms has to be implemented and has to be implemented by everybody."

The same IRA sources confirmed that a new leadership of the organisation had been elected, an apparent reference to the so-called seven-strong Army Council and 12-strong Executive.


[ image: David Trimble insisted on a
David Trimble insisted on a "credible beginning" to decommissioning
It is the third time this year that the IRA has made clear that it will not be handing over any of its weapons or explosives despite intense political pressure.

The IRA convention was called to review all aspects of the current political situation, and not specifically to deal with decommissioning.

The political process in Northern Ireland has been deadlocked for months because unionists are reluctant to make any further progress without the destruction or disposal of some IRA guns or explosives.


David Trimble responding to the announcement from Oslo
Mr Trimble said in his speech in Oslo that he had not "insisted on precise dates, quantities and the manner of decommissioning. All I have asked for is a credible beginning".

The decision by the IRA leadership to rule out any movement on the weapons issue at this stage will be seen, especially by unionists, as a significant blow to the peace process.

But republicans have always insisted that there can be no handover of weapons which might be interpreted as an act of surrender by the IRA.

Agreement

Despite the Good Friday Agreement none of the paramilitary organisations in Northern Ireland has begun the process of decommissioning.


Gary Duffy reports: Republicans feel "anger and resentment"
However it is believed that the loyalist terror group the Loyalist Volunteer Force may dispose of some weapons before Christmas, after they publicly promised to do so.

The clear indication from the IRA of its view on the weapons issue comes at a time when there is enormous anger and resentment among the republican rank and file over the lack of political progress since the Good Friday Agreement.


[ image: Martin McGuiness found the speech
Martin McGuiness found the speech "dismissive"
The Sinn Fein MP Martin McGuinness also described Mr Trimble's speech in Oslo as "narrow and disappointing" and "dismissive of Sinn Fein's efforts and abusive of republicans".

Despite the current difficulties surrounding the peace proces, the Northern Ireland Secretary Mo Mowlam has remained optimistic.

She has insisted that the "momentum is still there - slow, I agree, but people are still talking."

Dr Mowlam said it was crucial there was movement before Christmas, but she also insisted that decommissioning was an essential part of the agreement.

Given the IRA's position, the British and Irish Governments will have a lot of work to do in the next few days and weeks to keep the peace process on track.



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