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Tuesday, 14 August, 2001, 10:44 GMT 11:44 UK
Has the IRA done enough?
The IRA has confirmed it has agreed a plan to put its guns beyond use in a statement which falls short of unionist demands for actual decommissioning.
In a statement, the IRA said it has agreed a scheme to put its weapons "completely and verifiably beyond use" - confirming Monday's report from the head of the arms decommissioning body.
The announcement comes as the Northern Ireland peace process enters a crucial stage.
Ulster Unionists are demanding that the actual process of getting rid of weapons should get underway, and say the IRA move does not go far enough.
Has the time now come for the IRA to start the process of getting rid of its weapons? Should unionists be more patient, or is the IRA moving too slowly? Has the IRA done enough?
This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
If the people of Northern Ireland want peace then why do they vote for Ian Paisley, David Trimble (ex- Orange Lodge) and Gerry Adams. The day they stop voting for these people the day Northern Ireland will be at peace.
The IRA are trying to bring about peace, and have made significant and genuine moves in that direction. The Unionists - apart from Trimble who is a good man - are trying to destroy the peace process, but without appearing to do so. The British media almost always show a pro-Unionist bias, even though there are armed groups on both sides, and are guilty of presenting the public with a distorted picture of the situation. One of the reasons for this bias, apart from the obvious political ones, is that there is so much anti-IRA feeling in England, that almost all areas of the media are afraid of appearing to be anything other than utterly tough on the IRA.
In the years since the Good Friday Agreement was signed there has been foot-dragging and attempts to subvert the Agreement by both sides. The time has come to fully and completely implement the Agreement. For the IRA, this must mean giving up their arms. For the Unionists, this must mean reform of the RUC and an end to the implicit threats to the Catholic community represented by the "Marching Season". If both sides really want peace they must also cease to be so thin-skinned and learn to consider things from the others point of view.
Has the IRA done enough? Yes, more than enough. Since the IRA declared a ceasefire, it has been the Unionist who have continued the killing. Plain and simple. If you read the GFA it is obvious the Unionists "changed the rules in the middle of the game". It has been the IRA who have been in the forefront of concessions and the obstructive tactics of the Unionists that has encumbered the process. If it were not arms it would be the RUC and on and on they go. I understand the fears of the Unionists who do not want to see their "heritage" i.e. their position of privilege, ended. The same was true of the segregationists in the US. It has and continues to change for the better in the US as it will in Ireland. As to the eventual uniting of Ireland, it is only a matter of a decade when the population shift will allow for the then majority, now the slim minority, to be heard.
My initial thoughts are much like Leon's (Manchester)- float the six counties out to the middle of the Atlantic. But I have spent time with the unionist community, and I am a democrat; all shades of opinion should be involved in running NI as long as they have a democratic mandate to do so. Sinn Fein should make the final split with the IRA, and should join with all in NI, the Republic and the UK in destroying all the remaining terror groups, whether green or orange in hue. Let's get the FBI, CIA, and EU security forces in there too - most of the have been involved already. On a final note, for those Irish Americans who seriously believe that ROI wants NI, I'll say two phrases- "Gateway 2000" and "Euro Zone Interest Rates". It's the economy, stupid!
I can't agree with George M.Kleas' view that the IRA are the defenders of Irish Catholics. Anyone with an interest in Northern Ireland will know that many Catholics have suffered terribly at the hands of the IRA, particularly those who have dared to take a stand against the paramilitaries. If nationalist politicians were to endorse the proposals for a new police service, young Catholics would be encouraged to join, thereby providing their communities with an alternative to IRA "justice".
To George M. Klaes - The majority of people in Northern Ireland want to remain British. Whether they should ever have been there in the first place is another matter. It is not a problem of colonialism, but one of settlement, just like the Israelis in Palestine or, indeed, the Europeans in America (which happened at about the same time). Nobody gets more frustrated with the Irish - both Catholics and Protestants - than the British themselves, but what you ask is as sensible as asking for America to be entirely returned to the Indians. When you can get all 270 million Americans to agree to that, you will be qualified to propose a solution for Northern Ireland. Until then, you are welcome to join the rest of us in scratching our heads.
Why ask these questiions? Why not ask whether the Unionists and the British have done enough? If you read the text of the Agreement as voted on by the whole of Ireland and signed up to by all the main players (not the IRA incidentally) you will see that there is are requirements that the British and the Unionists have to satisfy. Then look at what the British and the Unionists have done - they are failing miserably and dragging their feet (deliberately?). They have not lived up to their part of the deal. On the other hand Sinn Fein have done everything that is required of them by the Agreement.
The WEAPONS should have been verifiably decommissioned 2 years ago, without condition. Unionists have been more than patient with mealymouth comments by the IRA and selected Government puppets.
Lets see the IRA "Walk the Talk" NOW!!
Without the 'peace process', the 'improved' terrorists might go back to their killing ways of the bad old days. But that is precisely why the IRA and its political wing are still terrorists, not politicians - because they have weapons that they will use if they don't get what they want. Terrorism and democracy are mutually exclusive. Until the IRA has disarmed, they should not be allowed to masquerade as politicians.
Words - there are so many ways to argue the toss about what decommissioning means. If everyone is serious about peace, then they wouldn't be talking about the semantics of the issue. Time to give up talking about doing it and do it or just forget about it and go back to the killing. Trust is the basis for any dialogue about the future - none exists.
The IRA must seize the opportunity and the unionists must recognise the nationalists rights, but weapons are a stumbling block.
The IRA must convince us that its weapons are
not held in reserve, in case all else fails. Northern Ireland would benefit from investment and job opportunities and a steady growth in gdp could make NI a gold mine in technology and commerce
The IRA and their Sinn Fein spokesmen are geniuses at hyping nothing into something. Yes, the Unionists are intransigent and clumsy, but that does not mean the Republicans are not devious and calculating. Lest we forget, Dick Spring said in 1993 that the IRA would have to decommission before Sinn Fein could even enter talks. Look at where we are now. They will not disarm, but not because of their principles - rather because their arms are still vital to their criminal rackets, training camps and punishment attacks. A leopard does not change its spots.
The Good Friday agreement may have been set up to help all the political parties to come together and achieve peace, but what about us on the British mainland? Despite the agreement, we still live with the threat of terrorist bombs. What have we done to deserve our cities being bombed and our citizens killed in cold blood by a group of Irishmen who don't want peace? In my opinion, I believe that we should get rid of Northern Ireland ASAP. It is the U.K's biggest liability, both financially and politically. The people there shouldn't be allowed to fight on our time or our territory. Give Northern Ireland away and let them fight it out amongst themselves -just don't involve us because we have nothing to do with it!
How do we know that the IRA is going to put ALL of its arms 'beyond use' as we don't know where all of the IRA's arms caches are! We will never know if they are ALL 'beyond use'.
We all know that at some time the weapons in N. Ireland MUST be put beyond use. The remit of the de Chastelain commission is clearly to oversee this, and they alone should be left to do so. Unionist demands for actual decommissioning again make them appear like they are dragging their heels on the whole issue of power-sharing. It should be remembered that the IRA guns are silent, whilst there are constant attacks on Catholic families all over the province. Yet, if the Unioists are to be believed, the threat to peace comes solely from the IRA. Seems strange to those of us who are watching from overseas.
Why can't we just give Northern Ireland the status of an independent state? Then they can sort it out amongst themselves.
This latest statement does not reassure me of the IRA's commitment to peace. Anyone living in NI knows who will be responsible for the violence if the present initiative fails, and it is not the Unionists! No doubt Loyalist paramilitaries will also be in it up to their necks but their support amongst the Unionist community is negligible.
To those from the USA who have stated that Unionists won't share power; they have been doing so for the last 3 years.
All the IRA are being asked to do is give up arms which they should never have had; just like the Loyalists.
No decommissioning first has produced failed peace processes in Macedonia and Israel.
George M. Klaes has demonstrated typical US muddy thinking on Northern Ireland by saying that ceding the province to Ireland would be democratic. The majority of the people of the province wish to remain British. Self-rule is the only way forward with power shared by all parties, which is what the assembly is and has been doing. You cannot do that with an arsenal of weapons held at your opponents' heads.
In 2 years 4 months Sinn Fein/ IRA have not moved the peace process forward a single inch. They make press announcements with no substance or detail that they claim as breakthroughs. We have had enough of their weasel words. What is needed now is some statement of when decommissioning will start and what will be put beyond use. Without those details being provided and the promises adhered to there can be no hope for the peace process.
B Shaw, England
Can I ask both sides a simple question?
"Who will have the courage to accept the other point of view?"
To the majority it seems that neither side wants true peace.
Or will they all be simply remembered as the nearly men?
I am sick of reading in this forum people outside NI saying the IRA are doing a great thing. They are saying they will meet with the Commission and plan to disarm. Guess what folks - they have been saying this for several years. While 13-year old boys get their knees smashed by IRA gangsters in Belfast; While Brendan McKenna, who is not from Portadown continues to be "offended"; while the UK government make concession after concession and the IRA do NOTHING, there can never be a settlement.
I am a nationalist, but I cannot deny that apart from stopping sectarian killings (but not "punishment beatings" and terrorising their own community), the IRA have ZERO interest in peace.
Fine words from the IRA but the peace process is about building confidence. If the IRA would show some real courage and destroy some weapons then the present logjam would shift.
One question I have been pondering for several years is, if the IRA really want to become politicians why do they need any weapons? If they are serious about trading bullets for ballots then why do the continually procrastinate about how, when and whether to give up their weapons?
I'm sorry but the IRA statement is just the same set of words coming out of one of the Republican movement's other mouths.
The only new thing here is the detail of how weapons are to be destroyed.
There is still no indication of a time frame or what Sinn Fein/IRA expect to happen first. This is simply another PR stunt.
If the IRA were to build a bonfire and publicly burn every gun and ounce of explosive they possessed it would still not be enough for the Unionists who, at the end of the day, don't want to share power in Northern Ireland. We hear much from them about IRA decommissioning but they seem to avoid the fact that every sectarian attack in NI in the last months has been from Unionist paramilitaries.
Forget the IRA and the Unionists. What is important is that the people of Northern Ireland want peace. And eventually they will get it.
If the IRA want peace they will give up their weapons.
But with the future of the Northern Ireland peace process on a knife edge the
Provisionals have not revealed when they intend to start shifting the guns.
A statement disclosed that their representative had met with the General's
international decommissioning commission eight times since March and more talks
would be held.
The proposal by the I.R.A is at least a step forward. The Unionists say that it falls way short of decommissioning but I prefer it that the I.R.A made a move, no matter how small, than no move at all. The way life works is that you start small and then work to larger things. That is what I think the I.R.A are doing.
Khoo K.C., Singapore
The day that IRA members are courageous enough to come forward carrying just some of their weapons and destroy them in front of neutral witnesses in a public place then everyone will be able to say the IRA has made a breakthrough and is genuinely trying to help the peace process. Until that day I can only praise the patience, not of the Unionists, but of the very many outsiders who have continued to work for peace while they have watched this terrible process drag on over the last 30/40 years.
All we hear from Unionists is the demand for the IRA to hand over their weapons. But we never hear from them that Loyalists should do likewise. Does it mean that Loyalists have the Unionist Party's blessing to keep Catholics further under their boots? I believe the Loyalists will never give up their weapons. Not so long as a Catholic resides in N. Ireland.
Let's just wait for the IRA to hand over a gun first, then we can get excited that the peace effort is moving forward.
A paramilitary organisation is going to give up its arsenal, it is now sending clear signals that its policy on a united Ireland has changed. This may have taken many years of bloodshed and wrong choices but none the less it proves that the IRA was not interested in being terrorists as they have been branded in the media for so long. Only a committed military structure would be able to negotiate in such a way as to see the future of peace. When a timetable has been set by the IRA and the decommissioning body, the ball will drop into the unionist side of the net and Mr Trimble etc. won't be able to lob it back, and he knows it!
Here we go again. How many times have we heard "promises" from IRA/Sinn Fein? The IRA will never, ever, decommission its weapons. Where are the details of this latest proposal? They haven't been released because no doubt the wording is so vague and meaningless as to mean virtually nothing. What a farce. Tony Blair and those in his Government responsible for this shambles should be ashamed of themselves. The IRA and Sinn Fein have played them for fools since day one - sadly it looks as if they were dead right.
Anybody with even a passing knowledge of the conflict will recognise this as a huge step forward. Those who do not recognise this, must surely have their real motives behind this process questioned. The ball has been passed to the Unionists. Let's see how they respond.
The IRA has done their part. It is now time for others to do theirs. The world is watching to see if unionists are just putting on an act or if they too wish peace.
Come on Trimble get back to the table, peace is worth taking another chance on. If it falls apart now ,what's the alternative, 30 more years of tit-for-tat another generation growing up bitter and twisted, no one wants that - this is the real deal
Viewing this whole drama from a distance, the only deal I observe is the U.K. government trading "working for peace" P.R. for appeasement of terrorists. You would think the government of the U.K. would remember the centuries' lessons on appeasement
There will never be a "breakthrough" where divisions are this deep. There is no deadline on peace - only an end to peace. The majority need to want a better future and to keep working towards it. That is all.
Stopping the violence and continuing the peace process is good, but Andrew, UK has it right. This will be settled the day after the Middle East Muslim/Jewish problem is settled.
Demanding the IRA decommission is
absurd! Do you want peace or not? With
two bullies defending them the Unionists
can disarm; but, the Irish Catholics have
only one defender; the IRA.
If Britain wants peace, then the British
Government should give up Britain's claim
to the Northern counties of Ireland, and
allow a United Nations peace keeping force
from neutral nations to oversee the
peaceful transition from British rule to
Irish rule. Otherwise, the democratic claims of
the Unionists and the British
Government must be regarded as
The US took great pleasure in the death of Timothy McVeigh. However, it is people like him who Mr Klaes likens to the defenders of Irish Catholics. As an Irish Catholic I take great exception to Mr Klaes's comments. The IRA has never been, nor will they ever be, the defenders of Irish Catholics. There only contribution has been to intimidate Catholics from this Country. Infact the IRA and all other paramilitaries can do a great service to both communities in this country by handing over all illegal weapons - NOW.
How can we possibly know if
it is a breakthrough? We have as
yet to see any details. It is
ridiculous to expect the Unionist
Parties to agree to the deal when
the details are still so cloudy.
Furthermore, one can reasonably
expect that even if the IRA destroys some
weapons, they will retain many in other dumps
the location of which have never been
disclosed. Yet again, the IRA and their political
surrogates try to appear reasonable while
continuing to threaten the peace and
safety of Northern Ireland.
The IRA's continued cease-fire, despite the ongoing and absolute provocation of loyalist violence, has consistently spoken volumes as to their commitment to peace through politics. The decommissioning clamour remains a smokescreen perpetrated by those opposed to power sharing and equality. No amount of goodwill on the part of nationalists will satisfy the likes of Burnside, Donaldson etc. Mark my words. Any decommissioning attempts will be met by further manufactured excuses.
George, United Kingdom
Peace has been available for the taking. Unionists need to realise that they are giving nothing away and gaining everything. If it's peace they're after, it's within reach.
Simon Cameron, UK
Another meaningless statement by IRA/SF, as usual backed up by their friends in Fianna Fail. When will the good people of Northern Ireland be free from the threat posed by IRA/SF? It's not as if these thugs have been observing any sort of a ceasefire.
This could well be a fantastic breakthrough. It is certainly one Unionism must grasp. However, decommissioning or not, reform of the judiciary and police should be carried out as soon as possible. Why is Unionism opposed? If reform is necessary (which it surely is) then reform will is right. Does the IRA holding on to its arms make reform any less right? Of course not. The majority of peace seeking people in NI deserve a just and equal society. If such a society existed, terrorism would have less fertile ground from which to grow.
M Bell, UK
The gesture by the IRA is contemptible. By dragging out decommissioning, they can still pretend to remain democratic. The peace process needs to be radically reviewed. All Unionist and UK parties have an interest in peace. No one should leave it to chance. People should remember that Northern Ireland is still British; it is not the place of the IRA/Sinn Fein to dictate to others. Peace in Northern Ireland is a unique chance. It is up to the IRA/Sinn Fein to give up their arms. And represent people peacefully, not through violence.
The IRA have made their move and thus have shown commitment to the process. What have the Loyalists contributed?
In this case actions must speak louder than words. I will believe it when the first weapons are handed over and publicly destroyed, and not before. This must be an open process where everyone can see weapons destroyed, and not just be told they were!
With this move the Republicans have put the ball in the Unionists' court with the world watching their next move. The Real IRA farmyard bomb illustrated how ridiculous the decommissioning issue was. Nevertheless, the Unionists have got their wish. If they do not now embrace the Agreement fully and continue to pick and choose which parts they wish to keep, the world and history will have to deduce that Unionists have no interest in democracy and equality; a suspicion long-held by most in the local and international communities.
06 Aug 01 | Northern Ireland
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03 Aug 01 | Northern Ireland
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