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Friday, 12 April, 2002, 10:51 GMT 11:51 UK
Decommissioning: Is the IRA doing enough?
The IRA has announced that it has carried out a second act of weapons decommissioning.
In a statement on Monday, the IRA said it had taken another initiative to put "arms beyond use" to "stabilise, sustain and strengthen" the Northern Ireland peace process.
The move was confirmed by the international decommissioning body (IICD) which oversees the disposal of weapons as part of the Northern Ireland peace process.
The first act of decommissioning in October 2001 was viewed as an historic step which helped to breathe new life into the Northern Ireland peace process.
But unionist politicians say they will only be satisfied when the IRA has disposed of all its guns and explosives.
Can a renewed move on arms by the IRA pave the way towards a lasting peace? Do you think that paramilitaries on both sides of the political divide are doing enough?
This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
To all those likening the situation in Northern Ireland to that in the Middle East - the former is not a war between nations. The British and Irish governments have not fought for years. All we have are two groups of terrorists, who threaten both British and Irish people with their indiscriminate violence.
Personally, I don't much care whether NI is part of the UK or not, but I will not condone terrorist activity in a democracy. Thus, while I cannot deny that any decommissioning is a "step in the right direction", I will not applaud anyone who was in possession (and remains in possession) of weapons designed to kill innocents in the UK or in Ireland (or indeed anywhere else). There may be a political question about the way NI is governed, but there is no question as to whether any organisation needs arms. Frankly, I am ashamed to share my nationality with any terrorists, whatever their political beliefs. And as long as these groups have weapons, they are terrorists, not "freedom fighters" and not real men.
Read the Good Friday Agreement, then see who are the only people who are sticking to it. Hint - it's not Westminster, and it's not the Loyalists.
Who cares if the IRA/Sinn Fein have "decommissioned" a few weapons? They are only after yet another concession from Britain which I'm sure Blair will happily give them. Why do we forget that we are dealing with people who have killed many people over the last 30 years, including women and children?
To those ignorant people who compare the IRA to the American independence fighters or the Palestinian suicide bombers, let me remind them of one simple fact. Over 70% of the population of NI has freely expressed its desire to remain a part of the UK. That's called democracy and self-determination.
Dr. Paul Mackey, UK
It will never be enough until all arms are decommissioned. However as can be seen in Israel if you have no concessions or dialogue, more bloodshed is the inevitable outcome.
If there's one issue that generates ignorant comments it's Northern Ireland. So many people seem never to have got past the right wing, red top press view. The IRA has been on a cessation of hostilities for many years while so called Loyalist groups have openly said that they will not cease and will not surrender arms. The commission has said that it is happy with the decommissioning and that should be good enough for every one.
Perhaps there are so many deals from the government to the nationalists (and not to the loyalists) is because historically things were stacked in the Unionist favour (employment, housing, culture, police etc...)?
The loyalist groups claim to exist solely as a response to republican terrorism, so with the threat gone so should their reason to exist.
You don't think its because their guns etc buy them influence in their own communities (republicans too).
Perhaps we are seeing a return to normal life here, with good old fashioned organised crime replacing terrorism!
Is this what they call the peace dividend?
This debate reminds me of similar forums on the Middle East. There is, however, one vital difference. The level of violence in Ireland and Great Britain is far lower than it was before the peace process. Every step towards peace is to be applauded, regardless of who makes it. I'm driven to question whether those who belittle the efforts of our leaders, and criticise those who try to move the process forward (albeit for their own ends), really want peace at all.
Put every IRA terrorist member in a room, with one bomb for every person they killed "to get their point across".
Looking at the news from the Middle East this morning, I am thankful, not to the IRA, just thankful, that a "substantial and varied amount" of weapons, ammo and explosives have been removed from British/Northern Irish politics. Its one step nearer a peaceful solution.
Why should we be praising the IRA for this "bold move"? It has taken them this long to make a token gesture. We should not be in the business of trusting or dealing with terrorists. Their opinions have no place in a civilised society.
To Phillip from Northern Ireland. I think you would need to realise the fantastic job Tony Blair as done with the Good Friday Agreement. We have all seen the disastrous effect the Iron Lady's stance on Catholics in Northern Ireland had. So I think you would definitely have to think before you comment on something you obviously know nothing about.
If Tony Blair is so good at fighting terrorism with George W. Bush, then he should try and control his own country first. He should be dealing with the known terrorists.
Martin McGuiness has been seen in public (Although not by the papers) at local school openings saying the IRA will never surrender. The IRA should be next on the Coalition against terror hit list. Let's get Bush to root out the money people in the US and lock them up, freeze the IRA accounts and send some troops in to help us Brits. The only reason the IRA are being quiet and sending in old (probably scrap) weapons is that they are scared that the major powers of this world are now cracking down on them.
Every mere gesture towards decommissioning by the Provos has been immediately matched by concessions by British governments (Tory and Labour): release of prisoners, reduction in British security presence, concessions on policing, huge salaries for Sinn Fein MP, and possibly next freedom for OTRs. Those correspondents who are asking why Loyalists aren't decommissioning ought to notice this suspicious trail of "deals".
Louise, Sydney, Australia
The IRA said it had put a "quantity" of arms beyond use, how much is a quantity, 2, 3 4 rifles? It was a political stunt, but very well timed, it turned the loyalists in to the 'bad guys' .
It's all very well and good the IRA saying it's getting rid of a few more guns and bombs. However, has anyone actually seen the state of the weapons being decommissioned? Probably not. The reason for this is that they are all probably 50 years old and don't work anyway.
All the members of such organisations are terrorists and should be treated in the same way as those Afghans in Camp X-Ray. Along with this, Gerry Adams used to (probably still is) be a member if this organisation and so should never be allowed to sit in our Parliament or demand us to do anything. How much of a coincidence is it that the Ireland problem miraculously solved itself as soon as Labour won the general election? It's because Labour have agreed to near enough anything just to get the situation semi resolved. The
The IRA are just doing a little bit of PR, spinning what is in all probability a token gesture out to be some huge step forward. I think it's about time both sides in Northern Ireland had their heads banged together until they make real & determined progress. But then that would curtail the racketeering activities of the various paramilitary organisations, which they obviously wouldn't like.
Why, when there's talk of decommissioning, is it that only the nationalist groups are mentioned? Why is no pressure being brought to bear on the many loyalist groups? The Unionists berate the IRA whilst their own paramilitary groups hide in their shadow.
The IRA is illegal. In talking of 'decommissioning' we are according it
a status it does not merit. They are terrorists, so ALL their arms should be confiscated. Blair has given them so much with nothing in return. Hence the hostile reaction of the Loyalists who rightly fear for their future. Blair has not solved anything, he has merely turned the problem on its head.
No, they are not doing enough. Nor for that matter are the loyalists and the many other similar organisations in the province. Be sure that there are still thousands of weapons out there and we should not be satisfied until every one is out of the way.
Furthermore, be absolutely clear that terrorism is no longer fashionable and the leaders of Sinn Fein recognise this. Their support in the US has altered its view since September 11. Terrorism of ANY kind is totally unacceptable in civilised society.
The IRA are doing their bit and of course they could do more, eventually they need to be disbanded. The problem with the situation is that the Unionist "Not An Inch" section loves to kick republicans at any chance. One act of decommissioning was a "cynical stunt" the second act is an "election stunt". Of course the IRA decommissioning will have a bearing on Sinn Féin's chances in the forthcoming General Election, but why shouldn't the IRA time decommissioning to their advantage?
Peter Sykes - you point out that it has mainly been Loyalists that are being returned to prison.
You will find that this has nothing to do with who is breaching the terms of their release, but rather everything to do with the fact that Blair will do anything to appease Sinn Fein/IRA. Despite the fact that Sinn Fein/IRA continues its reign of terror in many areas of Northern Ireland, Blair will not move against it.
Sinn Fein/IRA is laughing at Britain; Blair has surrendered to terrorists under the guise of seeking peace.
Thank God we had Churchill in 1940 and not Blair, or we would all be speaking German now.
On the premise that "anything is better than nothing" then these moves must be welcomed. I do not come from Northern Ireland and have never visited that part of the world, but I can well understand certain sections of the Catholic or Nationalist community feeling concern at a perceived diminution in the "protection" afforded by an armed IRA, repugnant as this may seem to many English people. It is now time to address these concerns by insisting on similar moves from the loyalist groups. Since the Good Friday agreement it has been almost exclusively loyalists who have been recalled to prison for being in breach of their release conditions. They clearly represent a continuing risk to the peace progress and must be prevailed on to meet the IRA moves on a "quid pro quo" basis.
It seems the only people talking any sense on this issue are the Irish. They are the ones that are at the heart of the conflicts. What we haven't heard again is what was decommissioned and how much. Until we hear this there is no point congratulating the IRA.
Yes, the IRA are definitely doing enough. Here they are putting a substantial amount of weapons beyond use whilst there is still a British presence in Ireland, loyalists are armed to teeth and are undergoing a campaign of intimidation of Nationalists in North Belfast, thus trying to bring the country back to the days of 1969.
The Unionists know that gone are the days of their domination and rule and are trying to stir up their electorate by playing down this brave move by the IRA. They are determined to go back, and not forward towards a United country where there is no divisions.
David Keville, USA
The IRA leadership are the only paramilitary grouping to decommission not once but twice I think it is now time for the Loyalist terrorists to make a start.
The discussion should now move on to actual disbandment of the IRA (and the Loyalist paramilitaries) as they still have a lot of weapons and are very powerful at a street level in many areas. Only then will peace be real and final.
If anyone believes that what arms the IRA has destroyed so far are weapons of any significance, they are living in "cuckoo land". The best and most dangerous weapons are still out there, and will never be surrendered. They are only scraping what they don't need.
I think Kathleen of Dublin is very perceptive. Why this moment in time to make this statement? President Bush in his State of the Union speech said he would root out terrorism wherever it was - so much waffle - he and Blair go on about the Iraq weapons and sitting across the Irish Sea/Atlantic from them is a cache of weapons in the Republic that could destroy as much as Sept.11 terrorist attack did. Complete disposal of all weapons immediately should be mandatory.
I love it really I do. Here you all are complaining about United States involvement in the world, then complain about the lack of their involvement in your part of the world. When will you realize the world doesn't revolve around your small country anymore like it did centuries ago? Are you really that selfish?
We should congratulate the IRA and other organisations that are trying to make this peace initiative work. There are no winners in war, just losers.
It's funny how the only people that seem to think it's enough are IRA supporters and people who don't live in or have never been to Northern Ireland. I don't see any celebratory street parties in Belfast. Please excuse the fact that the ordinary people of Northern Ireland treat this act of decommissioning with a little more scepticism than the propaganda blinded politicians of the world's "Major Powers".
The decommissioning of IRA arms shows that the Republican movement is committed to the peace process. While there are nay sayers I think it should be stressed that there is still a substantial British presence in the north and well armed Loyalists. If anything this move by the IRA shows a great deal of restraint on the part of Republicans, something of which Loyalists haven't shown. I think all should take to heart the fact that the IRA has stood by the agreement in goodwill, something which those in the Unionist camp have not.
Yes the IRA is doing enough. We have peace don't we - isn't that enough? The Americans and Russians have thousands of nuclear weapons but they are not blowing each other up so the process is going well. Even if it takes a generation we should be patient as bombings and murder are no good. Peace is always the best option.
In response to Zak's comment that the IRA will not stop at anything until the reunification of Ireland. Yes, I think he has raised a valuable point. But at least now the route that they are going down is now a political one because at the end of the day (or should I say 2016 ) we will have a united Ireland, and thank God I will be here to see it.
To Zac et all, while this event may not be absolute enough for you, at least it is a significant gesture. Tell me *who* knows exactly how much weaponry the IRA have? Exactly, you don't know. So how will you know that it is all gone? Same answer. The only people who can say for sure, you won't believe.
As a nationalist (and therefore by default an IRA supporter according to some of your correspondents), I'd like to see some Loyalist decommissioning, as a gesture, as it's not the IRA who have been pipe bombing homes in NI for the past few years.
Zak, Northern Ireland
I still do not see why IRA paramilitaries are seen as the primary players in this crisis. The IRA have become moderates nowadays, whereas splinter groups of extremists such as the Real IRA are responsible for recent terrorist attacks. It is these groups that need to be targeted and forced to disarm. However the disarmament has its limited uses. Where it shows that the process is still moving on, it does little else. If one is determined to conduct an act of terrorism, one will find a way, regardless of the weapons available at hand.
Mike Bell, England
Historically neither side ever believes the other is doing enough. I hope, though, that unionists won't be churlish enough to deny the fact that the process is at least inching along in the right direction, and that the ball is now firmly back in their court.
Let's all rejoice! The terrorists have put some more weapons "beyond use". Does that mean they kept some in reserve? If so, for what purpose?
So is the world supposed to be thankful for this latest announcement by the IRA? It's interesting how things have developed since the (extremely hypocritical) USA stopped actively supporting them.
Action against the IRA should have been far more severe and carried out in line with the action the USA has taken in Afghanistan. It's almost comical that terrorist organisations are only considered that when the USA has decreed it so. The civilian deaths in the UK attributed to the IRA were hardly worth a mention in American news prior to 11 September 2001. Although I don't condone what happened, it seems that this is the only thing that was capable of getting American policy makers to change their opinions on known terrorist groups. It's a different story when it happens to you, isn't it?
In response to Kathleen from Dublin, if you think now that the war is over and nothing should stop the IRA decomissioning all its weapons, there is still the important factor that the so called Loyalists still have all their weapons and as we have seen in the past there is nothing to stop them targeting innocent Catholics.
Kathleen, Dublin, Ireland
If the IRA was interested in constructively promoting peace in Northern Ireland, it would disband.
The IRA are a bunch of terrorists and were it not for the fact that they have broad US support the province would be awash with special forces, and the skies black with continuous sorties of US bombers dropping "Daisy Cutters" on Newry, Dundalk and the Falls Road. But alas such things are not to be and no amount of spinning will persuade the US that the bogs of Ireland hold a huge fuel resource vital to their economic interests. Upon such mundane facts hang the fate of terrorist groups and despotic undemocratic regimes across the world.
Glad to see this happening but we should not get carried away. The IRA still has loads of guns and bombs, loyalist paramilitaries are still far too active and we have nightly paramilitary led riots in North Belfast. It's a step in the right direction, but all the paramilitaries still have a long way to go before their behaviour is acceptable to society as a whole.
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